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Conference Final

Lightning 'no good' in Game 6 loss to Capitals

Will look to bounce back at home with trip to Stanley Cup Final on line

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have not scored a goal in 99:27.

That's about 99:22 longer than it took coach Jon Cooper to describe how his team played on Monday.

"Oh, we were no good," Cooper said.

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Five simple words. That's all he needed to sum it up.

With a 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Capital One Arena, the Lightning failed to take advantage of an opportunity to advance to the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights. Instead, Tampa Bay will host Game 7 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS).

The bottom line on Monday: The Capitals needed to win. The Lightning wanted to win. There's a significant difference between the two, and that's what left Cooper frustrated.

His team was outscored, outworked, outhustled and outhit.

"We didn't play with the near the desperation they did," Cooper said. "Was it a fairly even game? There's no question. But what were the hits, 39-19? Somebody was engaged, and somebody wasn't. That's a choice."

Said Lightning forward Ryan Callahan, "I think they were desperate. They played with that desperate hockey and we should have matched it and we didn't. They played like their lives were on the line and we played like we had another chance, and that's unfortunate.

"But now we've got to change the script in Game 7."

In order to do that, the Lightning must find a way to beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (24 saves), who became the second goaltender in the team's history to record a shutout in an elimination game (Semyon Varlamov in Game 5 of the 2009 conference quarterfinals against the New York Rangers).

Tampa Bay hasn't scored since Callahan redirected a puck off his glove into the net 33 seconds into the second period in Game 5 (a 3-2 win). Cooper, for one, knows why.

"To get goals you have to shoot," Cooper said. "To get goals you have to put pucks at the net. We're getting way too many blocked and we're missing the net way too much.

"You've got to execute. That's part of it. People say executing is passing the puck and putting the puck on the tape. Executing is putting pucks on net and putting them where you can get them back. We just haven't been near aggressive enough at that. You can get lots of zone time, and we'll zip it around and cycle it behind the net and get zone time for about 25-30 seconds and then it's out. It accomplishes nothing."

Video: TBL@WSH, Gm6: Cooper on struggles, looking ahead

As Cooper implied, the desire to make pretty plays has to stop. Greasy, dirty, at times ugly goals are what brings success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Lightning need to start clogging up the areas in front of Holtby for that to happen.

Washington's victory was the second by a home team in the series (2-4), perhaps taking some luster away from the fact that the Lightning will host Game 7 at Amalie Arena.

But as critical as Cooper was of his team's effort, or lack thereof, in Game 6, there is no place he would rather be than in this win-or-go-home scenario. The Lightning are 5-2 all time in Game 7, including 2-1 under Cooper.

As such, he's confident in the players who've been in this situation before. Forwards Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and defenseman Victor Hedman have each been on the Lightning during Cooper's tenure as Tampa Bay coach, which began when he was hired on March 25, 2013.

"I will tell you one thing, I've been so proud to coach this group over the last five years and every time they get pushed against the wall, they push back," Cooper said. "It's been awesome to coach them.

"Now we're being pushed again. And it's time for us to push back."

In front of the home crowd, no less.

"No matter what's happened previously in these playoffs, you have an advantage at home," he said. "You get to squeeze your matchups out a little bit better versus the team on the road. Face-offs. And you've got 20,000 people pushing for you. So if you are going to give me a game, I'd rather play at home rather than on the road. We're going to need it. And now let's use it to our advantage."

And if the Lightning don't?

"Shame on us," Cooper said.

***

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