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Lightning still focused after another loss to Canadiens

by Chris Stevenson

MONTREAL -- The Tampa Bay Lightning don't have to look far for a lesson in how to put a team away when it's storming back in a Stanley Cup Playoff series.

After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Montreal Canadiens, the Lightning have lost the past two games, including 2-1 at Bell Centre on Saturday, heading into Game 6 of the best-of-7 series at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

It's a scenario the Canadiens are familiar with. They held a 3-0 lead against the Ottawa Senators in the first round before the Senators won Games 4 and 5.

Montreal eliminated Ottawa in Game 6, a fact not lost on Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.

"We were up 3-0 and they found a way. These guys did the same thing in round one," Stamkos said. "They were up 3-0, Ottawa won two games, they took care of business in Game 6. Hopefully we can do the same."

The Canadiens have shifted the momentum in the series and Lightning coach Jon Cooper was asked if the pressure was on his team now.

His response was in the form of a question: What did Canadiens coach Michel Therrien say when his team saw the Senators claw their way back into that series?

"Did you ask that question to coach Therrien after they lost the second game to Ottawa? Whatever his answer was, I'll use that," said Cooper, drawing laughs from the media.

The Lightning were opting to take the positive spin on this situation, that they are heading home with a chance to close out the series.

"Nobody said it was going to be easy," Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. "Nobody expected us to be up 3-0. We put ourselves in a real good position. They're playing well and we obviously didn't play well Game 4. We kind of gave that away, unfortunately. Tonight, I think we did a lot of right things out there. If we play like this we have a chance to win every game."

The Lightning fell behind Saturday on a goal by Devante Smith-Pelly at 9:01 of the first period. Stamkos tied it at 9:27 of the third period with his second of the playoffs before PA Parenteau scored the winner at 15:33 of the third.

The Lightning didn't have a power play in the game. Montreal had three, two coming out of scrums around the net while the Canadiens crowded goaltender Ben Bishop.

Montreal didn't score, but its power play, which has struggled in the playoffs, showed some life.

"The tide went their way a little bit on the penalty calls, but it happens," Cooper said. "There's games that [don't have any] power plays. It wasn't like it was 8-0. They only had three. They didn't score on their three, but I thought those three they took momentum away from us. I thought we were doing well in the game and we take a penalty and it sucked the momentum.

"Their power play was kind of buzzing, and though it didn't score, that's how they got the majority of chances in the game was on their power play. Other than that, I don't think we gave them too much. I thought the refs called a good game. It wasn't like a goal was disallowed or something like that."

Stamkos was asked if he was surprised the Lightning didn't get a power play.

"A little bit," he said. "I don't want to say you expect that when you come into this rink, but a lot of teams would say that. We're trying to protect our goalie. They get a couple of good, good whacks at him. I know it looks like it's a coincidence, but it's not. I mean, they are doing it on purpose. We're trying to protect our goalie.

"It's the playoffs. Some refs tell you, 'It's the playoffs, we're letting everything go' and then you come here and guys get a couple of whacks in front of the net and it's a penalty. That's a tough one, but we killed it off. We didn't complain. We didn't whine about it. We were looking for maybe getting one in the third and it didn't happen. We'll have to pick up from here and move on."

Bishop had a different view.

"It's tough when you only show up for half the game," he said. "I don't think we had a power play today. That usually means you're not working hard enough as a team."

Cooper was disappointed the Lightning couldn't close out the series in Game 5, but given how tightly contested it's been thus far, perhaps it's fitting it's not over yet.

"You look at this series, there's been two blowouts each way, then there's been three nail-biters, one in overtime," Cooper said. "Actually, you can consider all of these in overtime. The first one went to overtime, the second one there was one second left, and this one was three or four minutes left. It's probably the way this series should play out. These are two even teams."

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