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Lightning feel need to remain more desperate team

by Corey Long /

TAMPA -- If the Tampa Bay Lightning want to end their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Montreal Canadiens without a return to Bell Centre in Montreal, they will have to continue to play desperate hockey.

Lightning forward Tyler Johnson said the up-and-down emotional ride that was their first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings has them better prepared for what to expect from the Canadiens in Game 3 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA Sports, USA).

"There were a couple of times in that Detroit series that we had an emotional win and the next game we didn't play as well," Johnson said. "So we want to take things one game at a time and keep an even keel. It doesn't matter what you did in the last game; it only matters what you do in the next game."

What Tampa Bay did in Game 2 of the best-of-7 series was go 4-for-8 on the power play to take advantage of some undisciplined play by Montreal. Before the power-play outburst Sunday, Tampa Bay was 2-for-34 in the postseason with the man-advantage.

"We watched a little bit of video, but for the most part it was just execution," Johnson said. "The passes were crisper and the shots went in. Guys were just making plays."

In most cases a team that's won four straight games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs would want to keep on playing. But with an extra day between Games 2 and 3, Lightning coach Jon Cooper gave everyone the day off Monday.

"We've played a lot of hockey," Cooper said. "Obviously we went to seven games [against Detroit], and right into the Montreal series. But it wasn't so much body rest; I think we needed the mind rest as well. We had two elimination games back-to-back, and to open on the road at Montreal ... with all the travel we've been doing, the mental rest is what was needed. We had to get away from the rink a little bit. I know it was good for me."

The extra day should allow Cooper to keep his lineup together; forward Cedric Paquette, who left Game 2, was a full participant in practice Tuesday.

Paquette left midway through the second period after taking one shift, but he said that practicing Tuesday was a good sign he could be able to play Wednesday.

"I feel OK," Paquette said. "We'll see tomorrow morning. Anytime you get a day off it's always good for your body."

Paquette wouldn't disclose his injury, which he said happened near the end of the first period.

"On the last shift I felt something wrong at the end," Paquette said. "We couldn't tell what it was right away and I tried one shift in the second and I couldn't do much. But it's getting better ... still sore, but we'll see tomorrow. You never want to miss any game, but in the playoffs it's worse."

With everything going so well for the Lightning right now, any little change to the system or structure could disrupt what they have put together. This is why Cooper doesn't want to take this 2-0 series lead for granted. He was on the other side last season, trailing the Canadiens 2-0 before losing in four games in their first-round series, and admitted he began to feel sorry for himself and allow negative emotions to creep into his mind. This time, with the series lead, he wants the Lightning to take full advantage of it.

"I'm not as much worried about Montreal's desperation level as I am worried about ours," Cooper said. "We're still trying to understand that you can't take anything for granted. The mere fact that we're at home, regardless of what our regular-season record is, means nothing in Game 3 of the playoffs. And we have to make sure our desperation level exceeds theirs."

Last week, the Lightning were down 3-2 to the Red Wings in their best-of-7 series. The Lightning won Game 6 on the road to put themselves in a position to win the series at home.

By winning Games 1 and 2 in Montreal, the Lightning again have the opportunity to win a series at home.

Forward Ryan Callahan remembers Game 5 in the first round against the Red Wings and how the Lightning had the opportunity to take the series lead at home and lost 4-0. He hopes his teammates learned from that disappointment, as well as from their series against the Canadiens last year.

"We've done nothing if we don't take care of business at home," Callahan said. "We remember back to a year ago and we were in the situation Montreal is in now. We have to expect the best from them and prepare for it."

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