If there's one angle Lightning fans can take comfort in following a shocking Game 1 loss to Columbus in the opening game of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's Tampa Bay's performances in 2018-19 following a defeat.
The Lightning lost 20 games during the regular season. Their record in the next game after a loss was 18-1-1. Only twice did the Lightning lose back-to-back games and just once were those consecutive losses in regulation.
Tampa Bay was on another level when it came to putting a loss in the rear view mirror and rectifying its mistakes to produce a positive result its next time taking the ice.
The Lightning expect no different tonight when they host the Blue Jackets at AMALIE Arena in Game 2 of their First Round series (7 p.m. puck drop).
"We weren't pleased when we watched the game tape. We didn't play to our identity," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said of the Game 1 loss. "Guys were pretty ticked off in here about their effort, so we're expecting a much better effort for tonight. We know what we've got to do. These guys are a good team over there. They work extremely hard to their systems and we get away from our systems, makes it easy to play against us. We know what we have to do. We're focused. We've been in this position before, so we're expecting a much better game from our group tonight."
Video: Cooper | Pregame ECQF Game 2
Another thought that should put Tampa Bay fans at ease: The issues allowing the Blue Jackets to rally from a 3-0 deficit by scoring four-consecutive goals were mostly a result of mistakes the Lightning made rather than adjustments Columbus produced that confounded the Bolts. Tampa Bay pressed too hard trying to light up the scoreboard holding a multiple goal advantage rather than protecting its lead and playing smart, defense-first hockey.
It's an error the Lightning don't plan on making again.
"We've just got to make those simple plays when they present themselves," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "Don't look for the B option or the C option. If the A option is there and he's got speed, you've got to give it to him. It's one of those things we'll fix tonight and we're looking forward to another game tonight. We just want to put that behind us, obviously left that game not feeling too great but today's a new day and you put that behind you and looking forward to tonight."
Special teams were a major letdown for the Lightning in Game 1 and contributed heavily to their defeat, surprising considering the Bolts owned a power play that not only led the NHL during the regular season but was one of the best power plays in NHL history, ranking 10th all-time. The penalty kill too was a difference maker for the Lightning in the regular season, finishing the regular season No. 1 in the NHL a season after limping to a 28th-place ranking in 2017-18.
Against Columbus, though, the Lightning power play failed to convert on a four-minute double minor to Brandon Dubinsky with about 10 minutes remaining and a golden opportunity to re-establish a multiple goal lead and put the game away. In the most pivotal moment, the Lightning couldn't get set up in the zone and then the unthinkable happened when a turnover led to a shorthanded rush that Josh Anderson was able to convert to tie the game with 8:08 remaining.
Moments later, Alex Killorn was whistled for high-sticking, giving Columbus a power play, which it converted on Seth Jones' open shot from the slot to complete the Blue Jackets' miraculous comeback.
A roughly two-minute horror show on special teams was enough to hand Game 1 to Columbus.
The Lightning have to be better in that regard in Game 2.
Video: McDonagh on Sticking to The Game Plan
"Special teams was a big part of our success this year," Stamkos said. "It didn't go our way in the first game. There's no reason to get frustrated. We've got to stick with it. We know the talent we have on both sides, the power play and the penalty kill. We just have to execute a little better, and we'll look to have that be more of an impact in this game."
STRALMAN SKATES: Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman participated in morning skate Friday, his first time taking the ice with his teammates since the start of the First Round series. With the re-assignment of Cameron Gaunce to AHL Syracuse Thursday, chances are good Stralman is recovering enough from his lower-body injury to get into the series at some point.
But it won't be Game 2.
Cooper confirmed Stralman won't be available for the Lightning Friday.
"He's not ready to go yet," Cooper said.
Cooper also didn't know if Stralman would be better in time to play either Game 3 or 4 in Columbus.