Carle exited Game 3 midway into the first period after colliding with Derek Stepan at center ice. The hit left Carle down on the ice momentarily, which allowed Jesper Fast to skate unimpeded toward the Bolts’ net and score the Rangers second goal in the 6-5 overtime victory for the Bolts.
The hit also knocked Carle out of Game 3. He is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
With the Lightning losing one of their top six defensemen, their ability to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen could be impacted.
The Bolts have had a great deal of success in the postseason using the 11/7 alignment despite trying it just once in the regular season. Tampa Bay is 6-1 during the 2015 playoffs going 11/7, including both victories in the ECF against the Rangers.
“I don’t know why we’ve had success going 11/7,” Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn said. “It’s kind of the first time for me doing that here. I’ve never really done it with too many teams, but for whatever reason, we’ve had success with it, and hopefully tonight we’ll have success with whatever alignment we go with.”
Mark Barberio could make his first appearance of the 2015 playoffs if the Lightning decide to continue with the alignment. Barberio has been a healthy scratch through the first 16 games of the postseason. He appeared in 52 games during the regular season, registering seven points (1 goal, 6 assists) and a minus-four plus-minus.
“I told 21 guys they were playing,” Cooper said. “You’ll have to show up tonight to see which guy is out. (Barberio’s) one of the guys I told might be in.”
Barberio’s last appearance came 41 days ago in the regular season finale against the Boston Bruins.
“This is where you find out if guys are pros or not,” Cooper said. “It’s a game we all love to play, but in some respects, it’s your job. These guys are expected to, when your name is called, to come in and do the best you can, keep yourself in shape, and our guys and our staff have done a great job with the players that haven’t been in the starting lineup but could potentially come in. And so when you look at everybody from, if it is Barberio to Drouin, Namestnikov, Marchessault, go down the list, those guys are ready to play their time, and when they’re called, you got to come in and do the best you can.”
The Lightning are expecting the New York Rangers to play their best match of the series in Game 4 to avoid returning to Madison Square Garden in a three-games-to-one hole.
“This is definitely a big game,” Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. “It’s going to be the toughest game so far I think. They obviously want to push back here, and we have to prepare for that.”
The Lightning have scored 12 goals total in the last two games against Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the same amount he gave up in the seven-game Second Round series against the Washington Capitals.
The Bolts aren’t planning on that scoring pace to continue against one of the best goaltenders in the world.
“As a team and a goaltender that’s battled for a long time, they have the reputation they have for a reason,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “So we have to match the intensity that the New York Rangers are going to bring tonight because this is a big game for both sides, and we want to take advantage of the home-ice we have.”
Following Game 3, Lundqvist appeared to be second-guessing himself when talking to reporters about the Lightning’s speed and skill and why he was having difficulty shutting both down. Cooper, however, expects a confident goalie in the Rangers’ net Friday night.
“We have to go in with the mindset that our habits and what we’ve done to score goals all year, we have to keep doing that and for that to happen, we have to play a speed game, we have to make (Lundqvist) go side to side, we have to make him go down, get up, all these things we talked about in how to beat a goaltender, especially of his caliber,” Cooper said. “If he’s questioning himself, I don’t know, to me that’s probably a little bit of a ploy. I don’t think he questions himself. I think he knows he’s good and he’s probably a little taken aback that we’ve scored a few on him but I expect him to come right back and we’re going to come right back at him and that’s why he’s as good as he is. But we’re not going to let up and he probably won’t either.”
THE D ZONE
Despite winning Game 3 in overtime, the Lightning realize they can’t give up five goals and expect to win too many playoff games. The focus tonight, they say, is to shore up their defensive zone.
“They’re a fast team as well,” Stamkos said. “If we don’t get pucks in deep and if we turn pucks over, they’re into their transition game with some speedy forwards, so we have to make some better decisions.”
But goals, Cooper said, are inevitable with the amount of skill both teams possess.
“I think if you ask myself and (Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault), I’m pretty sure we don’t go into our locker room and say, ‘OK, fellas, we’re putting a touchdown on the board tonight. Let’s just try and win this 7-6,’” Cooper said. “I know there’s a defense-first mentality that goes into both of these games, but when you have the skill and the speed that both these teams have and a want to score goals, sometimes offense can be the defense sometimes. Both these times are fast and they’re skilled and they can play the game and pucks are going to go in the net.”
Cooper expects the amount of goals to level out as the series progresses.
“It’ll probably calm down,” Cooper said. “I’m sure AV and I are probably losing a few follicles, but the fans out there are probably having one heck of a time watching the games.”