Just win one.
That's the mantra for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they enter Game 4 in Columbus staring at a near-insurmountable 0-3 deficit in their First Round playoff series against the Blue Jackets.
It's not an impossible task to dig out of an 0-3 hole and rally to win a series. Four teams have accomplished the feat, most recently the 2014 Los Angeles Kings, who started 0-3 in their First Round series against the San Jose Sharks before reeling off four-straight wins to survive and advance.
That Los Angeles team went on to win the Stanley Cup.
So, it can be done.
Video: Jon Cooper on approach to Game 4
The Lightning have experience, albeit limited, to draw from too. Defenseman Braydon Coburn was a member of a Philadelphia Flyers team that overcame an 0-3 deficit to knock off the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals on their way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Overall, four NHL teams all-time have come back to win after losing the opening three games of a playoff series.
The Lightning are looking to make it five.
"This is the most confident group I've ever been around throughout the whole regular season," said Lightning forward Ryan Callahan, who made his 2019 playoff debut in Game 3 and recorded five hits, two blocked shots, a shot and a takeaway. "This core has been together for so long. We've done some special things together including the regular season, some long playoff runs. If you find yourself in a situation like that, this is the team I'd want to be with in that situation. Obviously, we're not happy, but our confidence isn't wavering. We know the task ahead of us is really big. We're looking at that first period of Game 4 and trying to build from there."
Tampa Bay figured out some things in the third period of Game 3 in Columbus, unfortunately not quickly enough to overcome a 2-0 deficit entering the final period of an eventual 3-1 loss. The Lightning climbed back into Game 3 after Ondrej Palat followed his own saved shot by putting the rebound five-hole through Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to get the Lightning to within a goal. The Bolts continued pressuring Bobrovsky's goal throughout the final frame and had a couple good looks at the game-tying tally.
But as has been the case for most of the series, those shots were off-target. Cam Atkinson scored an empty-net goal with a minute remaining to end any Lightning comeback bids.
The Bolts, though, feel they figured out a formula for how to unlock what has been a suffocating Blue Jackets defense, and they'll try to apply that template in Game 4 to get a win and bring the series back to Tampa.
"I think we're ready to try some new things or found something that worked maybe a little bit in the third period last game with utilizing our speed," said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who is still searching for his first point in the series. "I thought that was probably one of our better periods of the series so far. We've got to build off something here and that's what we're going to look to do."
The Lightning outshot Columbus 17-8 in the third period after getting outshot themselves 12-3 in the opening frame.
"I think in that third period, we created a lot more opportunities, a lot more chances, probably our best period of the series so far even including that first period in Game 1," Callahan said. "It's something to build on, and that's what we need right now is something positive. We got that in the third period. Now we need to build on that and continue it right from the start of Game 4."
And that's the rub. For as much as it would appear the Lightning have lost that confidence they displayed in winning 62 games in the regular season and becoming the second-fastest team in NHL history to clinch the Presidents' Trophy, the pendulum could easily swing the other way. Get a quick goal in Game 4 to take an early advantage, tighten up defensively to carry that lead throughout and pick up the first win in the series and suddenly doubt might start to creep into the minds of the Blue Jackets. After all, Columbus has never won a playoff series in the history of the franchise. And they've experienced playoff collapses. Last season, the Blue Jackets owned a 2-0 lead on the Washington Capitals in the first round after winning both opening games on the road but lost four straight in the series to the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
"The fourth game in a series to win is always the toughest win for when you're on the other side," Stamkos said. "We have to make it that way. Our group is not going to just lay over and quit. We have to find a way to win a game, whether it's a great game or an ugly win. They all count the same in the playoffs. Our group is coming in with that mentality for sure."
The Lightning can't look at the big picture and the daunting task ahead of having to win four-straight games to continue their season. They aren't going to overcome an 0-3 deficit in one night.
Video: Callahan confident in Bolts' skill
It all comes down to winning just one game, a do-or-die Game 4 Tuesday night.
After that, they can focus on winning one more time in Game 5.
And then Game 6.
And after that, why not Game 7?
"It's a tough position that we're in right now," Stamkos said, "But we have to believe with the group that we have, whoever's in the lineup or not, that we can win a game and get back to Tampa."