It didn't much matter who you spoke to in the Lightning locker room after Wednesday night's 5-4 overtime loss to the Canadiens, the mantra seemed to eventually come up. It was only one game. Defenseman Radko Gudas said it, as did defenseman Victor Hedman and, finally, coach Jon Cooper. "The bad news is we lost the game," Cooper said of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals played in front of a sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "The good news is one game doesn't win the series. We get to come back and regroup and find a way. That's the great part about a seven-game series." Tampa Bay has a lot on which to work, including a couple of things it has tried to overcome all season: limiting its own chances by trying too hard to make the perfect play instead of simply getting pucks to the net, and shooting itself in the foot, as Cooper called it, with turnovers and defensive lapses. Montreal had a 44-25 shot advantage in the game, 35-16 through regulation and 14-4 in the first period, including 12-1 in the period's final 14:55.
And on the winning goal, Tampa Bay had three players — Gudas, defenseman Eric Brewer and center Cedric Paquette — behind the goal line while Dale Weise waited alone in the slot.
Daniel Briere got the best of Brewer in a puck battle and passed to Weise, who beat goaltender Anders Lindback with 1:52 left in overtime.
"I won't miss too many from there," Weise said. "It feels great."
Steven Stamkos scored twice for Tampa Bay, including on a scintillating end-to-end rush. And his second-period confrontation with Andrei Markov in defense of teammate Ondrej Palat, whom Markov dropped with an after-whistle hit, momentarily sparked the team.
Alex Killorn had a goal and an assist, and Lindback did his share with 39 saves.
But the Lightning had trouble getting consistent time in the Canadiens zone. Montreal did play a structured and clingy defense. But as Killorn added, "We have to realize it's not always going to be a pretty play or a pretty goal. A lot of times, especially in the playoffs, it's a rebound. We have to work on getting more pucks to the net."
For Cooper, the bigger obstacle was giving up the puck — Tampa Bay had 11 giveaways — and losing defensive structure.
A bad pass by Valtteri Filppula and bad positioning by Hedman led to Brian Gionta's shorthanded goal that tied the score 2-2 in the second period. And Mike Kostka's turnover at the Canadiens blue line led to Lars Eller's goal that gave Montreal a 3-2 lead 5:10 into the third.
"So I'm not so much worried about the shots," Cooper said. "I'm more concerned with us shooting ourselves in the foot with our turnovers. If we're not going to get pucks in the zone, or the second we get in the zone we're going to turn it over, it's hard to play offense that way.''
Tampa Bay was resilient as goals by Stamkos and Killorn in the third period overcame one-goal deficits.
But Weise's goal continued the disappointing pattern.
"We know we have better in us," Hedman said. "That's what we have to keep focusing on. It's just one game."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 1 (Brown, Paquette), 10:09. 2, Montreal, Plekanec 1 (Emelin, Gallagher), 10:28. Penalties—Panik, TB (tripping), 17:53.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 1 (Kostka), 13:24. 4, Montreal, Gionta 1 (Eller, Weaver), 16:39 (sh). Penalties—Briere, Mon (holding stick), 3:40; Paquette, TB (cross-checking), 3:40; Subban, Mon (slashing), 16:06; Emelin, Mon (slashing), 18:34.
Third Period—5, Montreal, Eller 1 (Gionta), 5:10. 6, Tampa Bay, Killorn 1 (Johnson), 7:11. 7, Montreal, Vanek 1 (Desharnais, Emelin), 11:30. 8, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 2 (Killorn), 13:27. Penalties—Killorn, TB (high-sticking), 17:59. First Overtime—9, Montreal, Weise 1 (Briere, Gorges), 18:08. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Montreal 14-8-13-9—44. Tampa Bay 4-7-5-9—25. Power-play opportunities—Montreal 0 of 2; Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—Montreal, Price 1-0-0 (25 shots-21 saves). Tampa Bay, Lindback 0-1-0 (44-39). A—19,204 (19,204). T—3:22. Referees—Gord Dwyer, Dan O'Halloran. Linesmen—Michel Cormier, Steve Miller.