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Off night dooms Lightning in Game 2 loss

Missed scoring chances, turnovers help Penguins even Eastern Conference Final at one win apiece

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- They didn't come close to playing their game and they know it.

That was the feeling in the Tampa Bay Lightning dressing room after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center on Monday.

Yes, the Lightning managed to rally from a two-goal deficit in the first period, but after neither team generated much in the second, they were a step behind throughout the third and outshot 16-6. If not for the play of their goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, overtime would have been nothing more than a pipe dream.

"That third period, we were just not generating enough," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Especially tonight, we were a little bit opportunistic. We had some big time chances, especially our last couple of shifts in the third period. But we were just too much one and done and not taking advantage of what we're good at. We would do it in spurts, but we haven't done it for six periods now against these guys.

"But ultimately, we got one of them. You don't want to sit here and say, 'Well, we did our thing. We got one.' We came here to get two. We might not have been the better team tonight, but we were one shot away, so it's unfortunate the way it turned out. But we've got to up our game moving forward here."

Video: Cooper on Game 2 loss

Perhaps for the Lightning, that is the best news to come out of Game 2, other than the fact that their top-pair defenseman, Anton Stralman, made his debut in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing nearly two months because of a fractured left fibula. As much as the Lightning struggled in the third period, they still were, as Cooper said, one shot away from taking a 2-0 lead in this best-of-7 series to Tampa.

Game 3 is at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I think it comes from us … some costly turnovers in the neutral zone," said Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, who scored on a wrist shot from the right circle in transition in the final minute of the first period. "Their team's too skilled to give pucks away. They're too fast and [Sidney Crosby] and [Phil Kessel] and those guys. You give those turnovers at the blue line, they'll make you pay."

Stralman, who scored a goal in his return, agreed. The Lightning know they must be more responsible with the puck against a team as skilled as the Penguins, led by Crosby, who scored 40 seconds into overtime to tie the series 1-1.

"I think one of the things that cost us tonight was turnovers," Stralman said. "There was way too many turnovers. In turn, that didn't allow us to play in the offensive zone as much as we wanted. We got stuck in our zone and they got all those scoring chances out of it.

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm2: Stralman finishes great feed in return

"They're a good team. [Vasilevskiy] was obviously holding down the fort for a long, long time, and eventually they got one in. I think that's one of the main things -- turnovers."

But the Lightning, who were without right wing Ryan Callahan because of the flu, had to be encouraged by the play of Vasilevskiy, who showed he is capable of filling the void left by No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop after the latter sustained a lower-body injury in the first period of Game 1. Vasilevskiy, 21, made several highlight-reel saves, none bigger than when he snared Crosby's backhand shot midway through the second period. Vasilevskiy finished with 38 saves.

"It doesn't matter who's in -- Ben or [Vasilevskiy]," Stralman said. "They're both great goalies and we have the utmost confidence in both of them obviously. You saw tonight how good [Vasilevskiy] was and how well he's been playing too. That's not an issue for us. It's a good feeling."

It would have been a better feeling had the Lightning found a way in Game 2 and had the Penguins up against the ropes heading to Tampa. They can take solace in the fact that as sloppy as they were at times Monday, they still nearly pulled it off.

"It's hard for us to swallow when you can have a 2-0 lead going to your building," Drouin said. "But we've got to move forward and make sure we're ready."

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