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Lightning aim to protect puck, play tighter D in Game 2

by Adam Kimelman

NEW YORK -- Coach Jon Cooper wasn't happy Saturday with how the Tampa Bay Lightning played in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers on Saturday.

He felt even worse the next day.

"It's funny watching games," Cooper said Sunday. "You can play the game and you can watch it and say ... you look at the game and not think you played very well, and then you watch the tape and it's actually a little better than you thought. But then there's the times that you think you played OK, and you watch the tape and you want to vomit. And that was a little bit how last night went."

Cooper said Saturday that he thought the Lightning played better in the final two periods of the 2-1 loss. But after a second viewing Sunday, he saw something very different.

"For two periods I thought we were a little bit better than we were until I watched the tape," Cooper said. "I think the Rangers played extremely well. But there are so many things ... we just kept stubbing our toe all night. We were just handing them tickets to the movie and we were a turnstile and watching them go by. We can't do that. We can't be giving pucks away, we can't be turning them over, we can't not make them go the 200 feet."

As a result of the Lightning failing in all the areas Cooper mentioned, the Rangers have a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 2 is Monday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Defenseman Anton Stralman said he had a similar queasy feeling when the Lightning watched the game video before practice Sunday.

"It was pretty clear we didn't play up to our standards," he said. "We didn't manage the puck very well. And our forecheck was not nonexistent but not very good. There were definitely a lot of things we can improve on mentality-wise, our effort level."

Stralman said there were a lot of self-inflicted wounds in Game 1.

"I think it was more self-caused," he said. "They're a really good team obviously. When you're not on your game, those teams take advantage of it, simple as that. We gave them too much room. We kind of made them faster than they are, and they're fast to begin with."

The biggest problem was a lack of offense. The Lightning had 24 shots on goal, more than three below their per-game average in the first two rounds (27.3). And although they had 50 shot attempts, 48.0 percent reached the net; that's well off their rate from the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when 77.3 percent of their shot attempts against the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens became shots on goal.

Of their shots that did reach the net in Game 1, the "Triplets" line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov had nine of them, and Palat scored the Lightning's goal.

Cooper said there needs to be more from other players if the Lightning want to make it to the Stanley Cup Final.

"If we want to advance, we're going to need more than the 'Triplets' to score," Cooper said. "When you've looked at some of these big games, we've had other guys score. We've had other guys contribute. Depth is a big thing. You look across the hall, and [the Rangers] haven't scored a ton of goals in the playoffs, but they're getting a balanced attack from a lot of guys. It's not the Rick Nashes that have scored every single night; they've had other guys chip in and they're advancing. And that's how we're going to have to do it; we need more guys to chip in. It's not like they're not trying to do it. They just haven't gone in right now and they're going to need to find a way."

Lightning forward Alex Killorn had three shots on goal in Game 1, half of the six combined from his line with Valtteri Filppula and Steven Stamkos. He said he and his linemates need to be better in Game 2.

"I think we just have to fulfill our roles," Killorn said. "I know with me I'm playing with two skilled guys. I have to be at the net creating stuff, getting in there, getting pucks out of the corners. They do what they do, so for me I have to help out in that sense."

Cooper said getting more offense from all four lines and returning to the puck-possession style that helped the Lightning lead the NHL in scoring during the regular season is vital if they want to remain in the series.

"If you're going to go into zones and be one and done like we were [in Game 1], we have no chance," Cooper said. "So we have to possess the puck more. It's been a big part of the reason why we're here. And if we're not going to do that, it's going to be a long night and a short series."

Though the Game 1 video showed an unflattering picture, it also revealed where the missed opportunities were, and the opportunities to be better in Game 2.

"It's not necessarily changing systems," Johnson said. "More so just playing better with ourselves. We have to be more desperate, have to have the effort, have to have the execution there. Just simple passes that we're missing, simple plays we're missing. Once we do that things will open up."


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