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Lightning face tough task after two home losses

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- After two losses at home and with the next two games to be played in front of one of the NHL's most raucous crowds, the Tampa Bay Lightning have their work cut out for them.

"We've got nothing to lose right now. We're down 2-0 and we're going into a hostile environment," captain Steven Stamkos said Friday after a 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference First Round series. "We have to play better."

The Lightning are looking for answers as they head to Bell Centre in Montreal for Game 3 of the best-of-7 series Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, SUN). Finding them doesn't figure to be easy.

Montreal jammed the neutral zone throughout Game 2, making it difficult for Tampa Bay to carry the puck into the Canadiens zone. When the Lightning did get into the zone, Montreal's defense broke up plays and was able to trigger a smooth transition game, negating Tampa Bay's speed.

"We have to stick together and believe in ourselves," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We have to make sure we get ready. We have to seize the moment. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and make sure we have fun and play for the teammate next to you.

"We need more speed on the puck and more speed on our feet. We have to play to our strength, which is our team speed."

Stamkos said the Lightning haven't lost confidence despite back-to-back losses at home.

"We just have to get back to simplifying the game and being confident," Stamkos said. "I know there are nerves, I know it's a different stage, but we have to be confident. I'm confident with this group that we can go in to the next game and have a better effort.

"We have to believe in each other and play with a little more composure and a little more confidence. We just have to believe. We're not executing our plays. I think it's more so what we're doing than what they are doing."

Though Stamkos talked about what the Lightning were not doing, two of Tampa Bay's playoff veterans saw it differently.

"I've got to give [Montreal] credit," said center Valtteri Filppula, whose 107 playoff games are the most of any player on the roster. "They played real well defensively. We need to be able to spend more time in their zone. They played tight in the neutral zone and we couldn't really get in."

Defenseman Matthew Carle, with 82 playoff games, agreed.

"They are a good strong defensive team," Carle said. 'They clogged the neutral zone."

Climbing back into the series against a confident Montreal team that will be playing in front of its own fans will be a big task, and Carle knows it.

"It's us against the world now," he said. "At least in that city."

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