TAMPA, FLA. - Composure is a word the Tampa Bay Lightning have been throwing around a lot the last couple of days, maybe almost as much as they threw the puck away Wednesday night in Game 1 of their Atlantic Division semifinal series against the Montreal Canadiens.
It looked like a combination of nerves – eight Lightning players were playing their first NHL playoff game – and a good forechecking game by the Habs were primarily responsible for the Lightning coughing up the puck in what turned out to be a 5-4 overtime loss, allowing the Canadiens to dictate where the battles would be fought.
The Canadiens outshot the Lightning 44-25.
In preparation for Game 2 Friday night, the Lightning were talking about regaining their poise.
“Obviously we got outshot by a wide margin. We just didn’t play the way that made us successful throughout this year,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said Friday morning. “We learned that the hard way, I guess. I don’t know if you want to chalk it up to a lot of guys getting their nerves out by playing their first NHL playoff game, but we know what to expect now and we know we have to be a lot better if we want to give ourselves a chance to win tonight.
“You still have to make the plays that you did for the first 82 games of the year. You can’t be so nervous to make a mistake that you’re just throwing pucks off the glass and giving the puck right back to them. We just have to be more composed. I think that’s a word we’ve probably used the last couple of days. Be confident in your abiities. Be confident in the way we’ve won games throughout the course of this year. That’s been a trait of our team is having that puck and possessing it and being confident making plays. Hopefully we can do that tonight.”
They’ll have to do it without rookie forward Ondrej Palat, who was second on the team in scoring during the regular season. He likely won’t play tonight, said Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
Palat left Game 1 in the third period. Alex Killorn will likely take his place on a line with Stamkos and Tyler Johnson.
Cooper wants to see his forwards do a better job of helping the defence. Too many times Lightning forwards were late back into their zone, leaving the defencemen to fend for themselves.
“I don’t think our D were moving fast enough, and I think our forwards were not helping out our D. Our forwards got to find a way to get back a little harder and fight their way back so we can start going up ice instead of taking pucks while we’re coming back. I thought we did that a ton, and I think we played right into Montreal’s game plan,” said Cooper.
“We’re a puck-moving team. We’re fast, we’ve got speed and we can control it and I just didn’t think we did that. ”
It’s not like the Habs played a flawless game, either. They gave up four goals on the Lightning’s first 16 shots, quite uncharacteristic for goaltender Carey Price.
Defenceman Josh Gorges said the Canadiens will try and stick to a north-south game.
“It’s a work-style type of system, and for us it’s not trying to move the puck east and west and try to hold onto the puck and make plays, it’s get the puck, advance it, let’s get the puck, let’s play in their end, let’s push them deep and try to work the forecheck game and the cycle game,” he said, “and that’s where we need to spend time with the puck.”