TAMPA — When Lightning coach Jon Cooper declined to name his starting goaltender for tonight's Game 3 at Montreal's Bell Centre, he set off speculation he might go with rookie Kristers Gudlevskis.
It didn't matter that Cooper rarely names his starter or that after Friday's 4-1 Game 2 loss in the Eastern Conference first-round series, he stated, "There's no goaltending controversy." Pulling Anders Lindback in favor of Gudlevskis in the third period lit the fuse.
Gudlevskis, 21, who played one regular-season game after his callup from AHL Syracuse and allowed a goal on three shots in Game 2, said he had not heard if he was playing in Game 3.
"I don't think so much forward," he said Saturday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "This is a practice day. I work hard. (Today) is a game day. We'll see."
What has been seen so far from Gudlevskis is pretty impressive.
He got worldwide attention with his 55-save effort for Latvia in a 2-1 loss to Canada in the quarterfinals of February's Olympics. He made 36 saves in his NHL debut April 11 in a 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets. It is believed he is the first goalie to play in the ECHL, AHL, NHL and Olympics in the same season.
"As a goalie, I can take every experience I can get," Gudlevskis said. "(Friday) was another day when I can get experience."
Lindback, who stopped 77 of 79 shots in his last three regular-season games, has been less efficient in the playoffs, with a 3.69 goals-against average and a .881 save percentage (eight goals allowed on 67 shots).
"We'll digest this and get back to work (Saturday)," Cooper said.
MEDICAL MATTERS: LW Ondrej Palat (upper body) skated Saturday and said he would be a game-time decision for Game 3. He said an April 11 hit from Columbus D Jack Johnson, which included contact with Palat's head, caused the problem. … RW J.T. Brown said he was "feeling good" after an "awkward" but clean hit in Game 2 from Montreal D Alexei Emelin tweaked his back. He said he expected to play tonight.
BEST VENUE: Cooper can't wait to play Game 3, and not just because it will be crucial to deciding the series. "It's a phenomenal environment for anybody, whether you're a hockey fan or not, to go up there," Cooper said of the Bell Centre. "The fans are great. They're hockey fans. It's just a lot of fun to play there."
WATCHING: Ten Lightning players in this series have made their playoff debuts. But two players with playoff experience — right wings B.J. Crombeen and Tom Pyatt — have yet to play.
Both said the situation is disappointing, but they also said the right things.
"It's a challenge," said Crombeen, who played 16 postseason games with the Stars and Blues from 2007-12. "As a player, all you can do is work your hardest and give your best. Make sure I'm in the best shape and ready if called upon. It's out of your hands beyond that."
Pyatt played for the Canadiens from 2009-11 and was in 25 postseason games. The Lightning was 8-0-4 in the last 12 regular-season games in which he played. Told he should bring that up to Cooper, Pyatt smiled. "Yeah," he said, "I'll mention that."
MOVING: Former Lightning player John Tucker, who lives in the Tampa area, is the new coach and assistant general manager of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. The team, which is affiliated with the NHL Sabres and is in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, is for players 16-20 looking to land college scholarships. Tucker says he will keep his hand in the XTRAice rink he help found in Tampa and is devoted to hockey instruction for kids.
MINOR MOVE: D Jake Dotchin, 20, drafted 161st overall in 2012, signed an entry-level deal. Dotchin, 6 feet 3, 209 pounds, had 11 goals, 36 points, 121 penalty minutes and was plus-22 in 63 games this season with Barrie of the junior Ontario league.