MONTREAL - From the sullen silence of a dressing room in Florida to what will be the ear-splitting decibels of the Bell Centre at playoff time.Follow @SlamSports
Somewhere in between, the Tampa Bay Lightning are hoping they find something much closer to the play which saw them finish second in the Atlantic Division and win home ice advantage in their opening round series against the Montreal Canadiens.
That home ice advantage is long gone after dropping the first two games to the Habs at home and now the Lightning faces having to win against a ruthless Canadiens team in one of the most intimidating buildings in the game.
“They came in here and beat us twice at home, so obviously it can be done,” said Tampa captain Steven Stamkos of the challenge of winning Game 3 at the Bell Centre Sunday night and getting back into this series.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work. We just have to have the mindset that we need to win the next game no matter what style of play, which way the game goes, who scores the first goal. We just have to believe in each other. It’s going to be tough, but we’ve dealt with it all year. We have to find a way to deal with hit now.”
The Lightning missed Stamkos for half the regular season with a broken leg and had to deal with captain Martin St. Louis’ diva act, requesting a trade out of town which was granted.
In the playoffs, they’ve been without goaltender Ben Bishop, their MVP this season (he gingerly faced shots Saturday as he attempts to come back from a left elbow injury), but the goaltending of Anders Lindback hasn’t been their biggest concern. They lost leading scorer Ondrej Palat in Game 1, but he could be back for Game 3.
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The Lightning’s issue going into Game 3 has been their inablity to take advantage of their biggest weapon and that’s their speed. The Canadiens have had a great neutral zone forecheck in this series, setting up a picket fence that’s forcing the Lightning to slow down and go sideways.
“What’s disappointing is not only the outcome of the games, but it’s how we’ve played the game. We know we’re a much better team than that,” said Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness. “The players addressed it after the game amongst themselves. Regardless of the outcome of the game, you’ve got to play the game the right way. You’ve got to play the game with a certain amount of intensity that’s going to give you the opportunity to win the game. I think that’s where we’re disappointed in ourselves. We haven’t thrown our ‘A’ game at them yet. There’s been sporadic play, but not 60 minutes of consistent, playoff intensity type game.
“(Canadiens coach) Michel (Therrien) and his staff have done a great job. That team is very well prepared. They’re playing very well. Of the four games we’ve played them during the regular season, this is the best they’ve played, but they haven’t seen our ‘A’ game and yet and clearly we’re going to have to bring that (Sunday) night when the puck drops at seven o’clock in the Bell Centre.”
The Lightning are hoping the Canadiens will face some pressure back here in front of their demanding fans. Thing is, this Canadiens team - at least against the young Bolts - is looking pretty poised. They’ve got four lines going and goaltender Carey Price looked good in Game 2, coming up with a huge save on Tampa forward Cedric Paquette when the Habs were up 2-0 late in the second period.
Their power play even scored a goal to end an 0-for-27 stretch going back to March 25.
The Canadiens know what their game looks like and have shown the ability to stick with it whether they’ve been up or down.
“It’s not an easy thing, the rollercoaster of emotions you’re going to feel in playoff games. That’s part of the experience factor, knowing to stay composed, to stay focused even when you miss great chances or make bad mistakes that result in a goal or a bad chance against,” said veteran forward Daniel Briere.
“Game 3 is another big game for us. It’s probably going to be their biggest game of the series,” said Canadiens forward Rene Bourque, who potted a pair in Game 2.
“They’re going to come out hard and we’re going to have to match their intensity. We can’t let our foot off the gas. I think the boys will be ready when we get home.”
Overconfidence won’t be an issue for the Habs. At least it shouldn’t be.
The last time the Habs won two games on the road to start a series was 2011 and they lost in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
“Hey listen, I remember three years ago,” said Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban. “I’m not pleased until the series is over.”
PALAT COMING BACK?
The news has been mostly bad for the Tampa Bay Lightning in what has been a disastrous start to their opening-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens.
But down 2-0 and heading to the Bell Centre, there was a glimmer of hope leading scorer Ondrej Palat could return to the lineup for Game 3 Sunday night.
Palat - originally injured late in the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets - aggravated his upper body injury in Game 1 and had to pull himself out of the game. He missed Game 2, but skated Saturday.
“I feel good today. I had a good practice,” said the 23-year-old rookie. “It’s frustrating. You always want to be on the ice and help your team win. It was not easy to watch the two games and be in the press box.”
Palat led the Lightning with 59 points (23 goals) this season and their forwards in short-handed time on ice.
“He’s one of our top players. Rookie, five-year veteran, it doesn’t matter, this kid is a great player. He’s a gamer. He’s one of those players you designate and say, ‘wow, we can win the Cup with this guy,’” said Tampa associate coach Rick Bowness.
“He’s a quiet, quiet kid, but you would never know that if you watch him play because he brings that intensity on the ice every shift. I see him walking around here and he’s dying to get back out there. He’s really missing playing. When he left the bench the other night, he walked by me and I could just see the disappointment in his eyes, that he did not want to pull himself out of that game, but he knew he had to. You watch him around the locker room and his eyes are lit up. He wants to play. He loves to play the game of hockey and that’s just rubbed off on everybody.”