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Lightning must find more offense in Game 2 of Final

by Corey Masisak

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning tried to win a 1-0 game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. It didn't work.

Although the Lightning were happy with their defensive work for much of the 2-1 loss on Wednesday, they are going to need more offense as the best-of-7 series progresses. Game 2 is Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I think we had the chance to take that game in the first couple periods," coach Jon Cooper said Thursday. "We get that second one, we had chances. … We just couldn't get that second one. I felt if we got that second one, it would have put them away. We didn't. We let them hang around. It burned us."

After a strong start for the Lightning, which included Alex Killorn's highlight-reel goal and 10 of the first 13 shots on net, Tampa Bay struggled to find quality chances against Chicago and goaltender Corey Crawford.

Captain Steven Stamkos had two good looks in the second period, one on a slap shot from the right circle with no one around him and, seconds later, another from the edge of the crease. Ryan Callahan had a breakaway in the third period, but that was one of five saves Crawford had to make in the final 20 minutes and one of two in the first 15:26.

"[Crawford] had a good game, made some big saves when he had to," Stamkos said. "Our goalie did the same. I think when you get to this time of the year, goalies are going to be playing well. I know a lot of people have talked about all the offense, the firepower in this series. But I think you saw last night two teams willing to play well defensively, and that starts with your goaltenders. [Crawford] was no different. We're going to have to find a way to get some more pucks past him.

"[We] can't expect to win a lot, especially against a team of that caliber, scoring one goal. Power play has to generate a little more. We're going to have to find a way to beat them."

Tampa Bay had 23 of the first 28 shot attempts in the game, but there were noticeable lulls in the final two periods. The Lightning actually went more than 13 minutes without a shot attempt, let alone a shot on goal, from late in the second period until past the midway point of the third.

Among the most noticeable absences in the offensive zone was the "Triplets" line. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov have been mesmerizing during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, combining for 28 goals and 55 points. But in Game 1, none of the three was on the ice for more than six of Tampa Bay's shot attempts at even strength, and each was on for at least 12 attempts by Chicago. Johnson's shot attempt percentage (SAT%) was 33 percent; his linemates were at 25.0 and 23.8 percent.

That's not something Cooper expects to continue.

"They've proven time and time again they may be kept off the scoresheet a game here, a game there, but you're not going to keep them off for long," he said. "Those kids will find a way. I think it's a massive compliment when they get asked that question, because that means they've scored so often and done so many good things. The fact they don't do it once, it's alarming. To me that's the ultimate compliment. So I have no worries."

Chicago's goals came from players on the third line during a span of 1:58 late in the third period. The Blackhawks' fourth line drew the primary matchup against the "Triplets" and kept them in check.

The Lightning have advanced to this point with a heavy dose of offense from the top two lines, but the Blackhawks' biggest advantage, at least on paper, might be their depth up front.

"We've had guys step up throughout the lineup this whole playoffs," Callahan said. "Our first two lines, I think, have carried most of the weight in that. But guys have chipped in, defensemen have chipped in when need be. Against a team like Chicago that has so much talent throughout their lineup, I think that secondary scoring is going to be important. Guys are going to have to come up with big goals at big times."

Tampa Bay forward Brian Boyle didn't seem overly concerned when asked about the distribution of the Lightning's offense. They need more goals, regardless of the source, he said.

"You take goals when you can get them. I don't care who puts it in," Boyle said. "Going into a game, you want to contribute however you can, whatever situation you're put in. Taking a lot of D-zone draws, killing a penalty, you have to do a good job with that. If you're put in an offensive situation, even if it's one offensive zone draw the second period, you want to try to create some offense, create at least some momentum.

"I know I got one goal, and I'd certainly like a lot more than that. But you got to kind of play the game as it plays out in front of you. It's something that we want to get more production, but we're in the Cup Final right now. We're getting enough production so far from everybody, I think."

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