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Lightning still feel 'sting' of 2014 playoff loss

by Arpon Basu /

MONTREAL -- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper doesn't need to reach into his bag of motivational tricks for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"The sting from last year is enough," Cooper said.

Last year the Lightning arrived at Bell Centre having lost the opening two games of their first-round series against the Canadiens and lost Game 3, with a disallowed goal by Lightning forward Ryan Callahan playing a big role in the game.

Cooper showed he hadn't quite gotten over that when he opened his Friday press conference by saying, "Back at the scene of the crime."

Motivation will not be an issue for the Lightning, who will have a healthy Ben Bishop in goal as opposed to a year ago when he missed the series because of an elbow injury.

But not everyone on the Lightning went through the disappointment of being swept by the Canadiens last year, and that is what makes them so different.

Two of the players, defenseman Anton Stralman and forward Brian Boyle, have very different playoff memories from Bell Centre last year, having beaten the Canadiens in six games in the Eastern Conference Final while playing with the New York Rangers.

"I've seen both sides of it," Boyle said. "Not only in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs but for a number of years we [the Rangers] couldn't win in here. It's tough here when the momentum is going against you to grab it back. It was a tight series last year and you feel those momentum swings. When this crowd gets going and their team gets them going it's tough to kind of stop that. So we have to understand that. But also understand that it's going to happen, it's bound to happen, and [you have to] stay even-keeled, downplay it a little bit, and understand it's a series.

"No matter what happens tonight, it doesn't matter. You have to get ready for the next one. Just focus on the task at hand."

Words like that are exactly why players like Boyle, Stralman and defenseman Braydon Coburn (who helped the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Canadiens in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final) were brought in, with Cooper saying those players have a calming effect on the dressing room. It could help in a situation where the Lightning might be feeling a bit overconfident, having defeated the Canadiens all five times they played in the regular season by a combined score of 21-8.

It is what led Canadiens coach Michel Therrien to state Thursday that his team was the underdog in the series, despite holding home-ice advantage.

"They had 110 points, won the division, have the Vezina candidate [Carey Price], Hart candidate [Price] and Norris candidate [P.K. Subban]," Cooper said. "I guess if we had those, I'd say, 'Yeah he is the underdog.' But we don't have those."

Cooper does have one of the League's best offensive players, center Steven Stamkos, who has not scored in his past 10 playoff games dating to the series against the Canadiens last year.

Cooper predicted after the Lightning's 2-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday that Stamkos would break out soon, and he is eager for the fresh start this series provides.

"The first round was tough when you're not producing, but that was an eye-opener for me, that I can go out there and focus on other areas of the game, whether it was faceoffs or playing well defensively," Stamkos said. "Just getting out there and trying to create. Obviously you want to help your team by producing. But when your team wins, at the end of the day it's pretty satisfying. Like I said before, the beauty of it is it's kind of a fresh start and I'm excited for that chance."

Here are the projected lineups:


Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Cedric Paquette - Valtteri Filppula - Brian Boyle

Brenden Morrow - Vladislav Namestnikov

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Braydon Coburn

Matt Carle - Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Mark Barberio, J.T. Brown, Jonathan Drouin

Injured: None


Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher

Alex Galchenyuk - David Desharnais - Dale Weise

Brandon Prust - Lars Eller - Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

Jacob De La Rose - Torrey Mitchell - Devante Smith-Pelly

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Alexei Emelin - Jeff Petry

Tom Gilbert - Greg Pateryn

Carey Price

Dustin Tokarski

Scratched: Brian Flynn, Manny Malhotra, Mike Weaver, Sergei Gonchar, Mike Condon

Injured: Nathan Beaulieu (upper body)

Status report: Cooper went with a lineup that included seven defensemen and 11 forwards in the final two games against the Red Wings and won facing elimination each time, so he likely will stick with it. If he doesn't, Brown likely would go in and Nesterov would come out. … Filppula did not play in the third period of Game 7 against the Red Wings after he took a heavy hit from Pavel Datsyuk early in the second. Filppula said Friday he is fine and should be able to play a regular shift.

Who's hot: Bishop made 31 saves for his first Stanley Cup Playoff shutout in Game 7 against Detroit. … Killorn has a point in each of his past two games. … Johnson scored six goals in seven games in the first round. The rest of the Lightning scored 11.

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