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Dennis: Lightning need to have short memory

by Adam Kimelman

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference Final, has enlisted the help of Chris Dennis to break down the Tampa Bay Lightning. Dennis will be checking in throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Dennis spent 10 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, including the past two as an assistant coach under Randy Carlyle and Peter Horachek. Prior to that he was the Maple Leafs' video coach for eight seasons.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have the unenviable role of having two days to dwell on their 7-3 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper could spend time going through the video and finding the positives, because besides allowing seven goals, there were points in the game when the Lightning played well.

However, Chris Dennis said he believes that whatever positives might have occurred in Game 6, the best thing the Lightning can do is put what happened behind them as quickly as possible.

"If you're at this point, you're one game away from the Stanley Cup Final," he said. "You can't be looking back on what happened last night. It's over. You have to move on and prepare for Game 7. You can't focus on what just happened. If there's strategic changes that the coaching staff feels they need to make to adapt to something the Rangers did differently, then you would look back on that. Other than that you're moving forward, and what's happened, happened. You have one game now to qualify for the Stanley Cup; that's what their focus will be."

The Lightning will also have to keep their focus through what should be a deluge of questions about the Rangers' dominance in Game 7s -- the Rangers have won won seven straight Game 7s at Madison Square Garden, dating to 1994 -- and Henrik Lundqvist's record in Game 7s; he's 6-1 with a 0.97 goals-against average, .966 save percentage, and one shutout.

Game 7 is Friday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"If that's what you're going to be focusing on, it makes your task that much more difficult," Dennis said. "It's one game, and his numbers are spectacular, but it's one game. That number can change drastically after this Game 7. All it does is speak to something they already knew; he's a great goaltender, he's one of the best in the League. He's a competitor. He brings it when series are on the line, but they know that. They can have some confidence in the fact they've scored on him a lot in this series. They did get three past him [Thursday] night; in most playoff games you score three goals, you should be right there for the win."

Though the Lightning are young, they have faced a lot of adversity during this run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, from having to win Game 6 on the road against the Detroit Red Wings just to force Game 7 in the first round to losing two straight against the Montreal Canadiens in the second round after taking a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. The Lightning had two days off after their loss in Game 5 against the Canadiens and responded with a win to close the series in Game 6.

"Having the confidence to know that you've done something like this before I'm sure will be a benefit to them," Dennis said. "We'll see. At the end of the day, it's a one-game thing. Anything can happen. They're just going to have to be prepared as possible for Game 7."

That includes a full commitment to playing defensive hockey. The Lightning allowed 34 shots on goal in Game 6, but the Rangers' total grew by period, from seven in the first, to 11 in the second, to 16 in the third, when the Rangers turned a 2-1 lead into a 6-2 advantage midway through the period.

"If they're committed to defense, they're a real tough team to play against, because they are so naturally gifted offensively," Dennis said. "They have to make sure they're committed to defense. If its 0-0 going into the third and they need one goal, they have to like their chances with their team. But commitment to defense is what I'd imagine the coaching staff will be stressing."


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