Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Islanders Game 1 victory gets Lightning's attention

TAMPA — Plenty went wrong for the Lightning in Wednesday's 5-3 loss in Game 1 to the Islanders, from goalie Ben Bishop having a rare off night to several defensive lapses.

Then there was this:

"We weren't ready from the start," wing Alex Killorn said. "We were feeling pretty good about ourselves after that Detroit series. We came in a little too relaxed."

Any relaxation is gone heading into an almost must-win Game 2 of the second-round playoff series Saturday at Amalie Arena, a game coach Jon Cooper dubbed "paramount." But Tampa Bay has been in this position before. It has lost the first game in four of the six playoff series it has played the past two seasons. It won two of the three completed series in which it lost Game 1, and it is 5-0 in Game 2s the past two playoffs.

"It's a seven-game series for a reason," center Tyler Johnson said.

For the Lightning to get back into this series with a surging Islanders team, it has to limit the miscues and sloppy play that cost it in Game 1 on Wednesday before a furious third-period comeback pulled Tampa Bay to within one goal late in the third period. And Bishop, a Vezina Trophy finalist who allowed four goals on 13 shots before getting pulled, isn't the only one who needs to bounce back.

"We can't sit here every single game and say, 'Oh well, we've got Ben Bishop back there, he's going to bail us out,' " Cooper said. "Sometimes we have to bail him out when he's not at his best, and we didn't do that (Wednesday). And it's our turn to bail him out, because he's done it way too often for us."

The Lightning watched video Thursday before an optional practice attended by 15 players, including Bishop and captain Steven Stamkos (blood clot). There were a few positives for the Lightning on Wednesday but too many lapses — from defensemen and forwards — that led to Islanders chances.

"There were a few things that we were fully prepared for and have gone over and we've practiced and done," Cooper said. "And then when it came to the game, we didn't execute. We came back to instinctual habits. Those are just things you've got to fight out of young players."

There was the Islanders' second goal, for example, scored by wing Shane Prince late in the first period, on which he found himself alone at the right post on a 2-on-1. Cooper noted that center Vladislav Namestnikov dived for the puck in the neutral zone, which prevented him from backchecking in time.

"You going to punish (Namestnikov) for trying hard?" Cooper said. "That's the one thing. He tried. He wasn't expecting the result. But that wasn't the right play to make at the right moment."

Cooper made it clear that Namestnikov was far from the only one making mistakes, including veterans. "Everybody was making mistakes," he said. "Those are just the ones that are glaring because they end up in the back of our net."

Veteran center Brian Boyle said the Lightning's habits weren't as good as they usually are, especially after taking a 1-0 lead three minutes into the first. Boyle said it was like the Lightning "thought it'd be easy."

"We were starting to get too cute," Boyle said. "And … we didn't compete to get the puck nearly enough. Those are big no-nos this time of year."

The Lightning has no margin for error now, not wanting to fall in an 0-2 hole heading to Brooklyn next week. The Islanders are going to be a tough out.

"That's something we should have expected," Killorn said. "We knew they were coming off a huge win (against the Panthers in the first round), haven't been past the first round in a while (23 years). We played them three times in the year, and they always play well against us. We knew they'd be ready. We just weren't prepared."

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

 
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