Cooper on Game 2 vs. the Canadiens: 'This is one we need'
Toward the end of Friday's pregame meeting with reporters, someone asked Lightning coach Jon Cooper if tonight's Game 2 against the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals was a must win.
"I don't know if it's must win," Cooper said. "If this was Game 4 and we were down three, I would call that a must win. But this is one we need."
Tampa Bay is down one game to none in the best-of-seven series. It already has lost home ice. To go down 2-0 to Montreal headed to the Bell Centre would be a tough hole out of which to climb.
It sounds as if rookie left wing Ondrej Palat will not be in the lineup. Cooper didn't rule him out completely (he is a game-time decision), but said the rookie, who led the team with 59 regular-season points is likely out with what is characterized as an upper-body injury.
Palat left Game 1 early in the third period after a knee-to-knee hit with Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban. But with the team saying the injury is to Palat's upper body, some wondered if it had anything to do with a hard check Palat took April 11 from Columbus' Jack Johnson. That hit included contact with Palat's head and kept him out of Sunday's regular-season finale at Washington.
If Palat cannot go, expect Alex Killorn to take his place on a line with Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson. That line clicked in Game 1 after Palat went down. It also appears Tampa Bay will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. If that is the case, Andrej Sustr might make his Stanley Cup playoff debut.
"It's a big hole for us," Cooper said of losing Palat. "But we've dealt withthis stuff before. Every team deals with it. You look across at Montreal. They're probably saying the same thing about not having (Alex) Galchenyuk."
Biggest things for Tampa Bay tonight, Cooper said, is showing more poise with the puck, limiting turnovers and getting the forwards more involved in moving the puck out of the defensive zone.
"I don't think our D was moving (the puck) fast enough and I don't think our forwards were helping out our D," Cooper said. "Our forwards have 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 think we played right into Montreal's game plan. We're a puck-moving team. We're fast. We've got speed and we can control it. I don't think we did that."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Anders Lindback gets the start in net in Game 2. ... Goaltender Ben Bishop (elbow) for the first time since his injury, took shots from goaltenders coach Frantz Jean before the morning skate. It was the first time Bishop has taken shots since he was hurt April 8 against the Maple Leafs. "He's progressing every day," Jean said. "The last three days have been extremely positive for him. The recuperation is going very well." ... Steven Stamkos' end-to-end goal in Game 1 was the talk of the Montreal locker room. "He's such a good scorer," Canadiens right wing Dale Weise said. "He scores on an unbelievable shot very few guys in the league can score from. That was a great shot." Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges said even an opponent can appreciate that goal, to a point. "He's a world-class player and we get to see some of the plays he's capable of," Gorges said. "I think as an opponent this time of year you don't stare in awe, you learn from it and watch it. He's that good he can make those plays. We have to make sure we're a little bit better on him."