Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning needs 'A' game, not panic, for comeback

MONTREAL — There is no shame in losing two straight at home to open a playoff series, Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness said. Especially with how well the Canadiens played.

What is disappointing, Bowness said, is how Tampa Bay lost a bit of its identity while falling behind two games to none in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.

"Regardless of the outcome, you've got to play the game the right way," Bowness said Saturday. "You've got to play the game with a certain amount of intensity to give you an opportunity to win the game, and that's where we're disappointed in ourselves.

"They haven't seen our 'A' game yet."

The Lightning better dust it off for Game 3 tonight at the Bell Centre because only three times in 172 series has a team come back from a 3-0 deficit to win.

The odds for a comeback from 2-0 aren't great, either. It has happened 37 times in 291 series and only 15 times when a team opened with two home losses.

"It almost seems insurmountable to beat a team four out of five games," defenseman Matt Carle said, "so you just want to take it a game at a time."

General manager Steve Yzerman said his biggest nit is the team's inability to mount sustained offensive pressure.

Though conceding Montreal is playing "extremely disciplined, very patient, good counterattack, playoff hockey," he said the Lightning is "forcing it with the puck in all areas of the ice."

"They all want to make plays, but there are times you just have to get it out and get it in," Yzerman said. "Even on the rush, we throw the puck into areas hoping there's going to be a play, and we're turning it over, and they're going the other way."

Tampa Bay needs more from Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan, who have one assist between them and are a combined minus-6. It needs defensemen Sami Salo, Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer to tighten their games and show more poise.

And it needs better goaltending. Anders Lindback, pulled in the third period of Game 2 on Friday, has a 3.69 goals-against average and a .881 save percentage.

What the Lightning doesn't need is panic, Yzerman said, or passionate pregame speeches.

"Speeches," he said, "are for the movies."

"Don't get rattled when things don't go your way," Yzerman said. "You've just got to continue to believe in yourself, don't fall apart. Don't completely lose your confidence. That's where mental toughness comes in."

Yzerman knows of what he speaks. His Red Wings in 2002 lost the first two games of their Western Conference quarterfinal at home to the Canucks but won the series in six games.

"We had a good group. We talked in our locker room and just believed," Yzerman said. "The one thing we didn't do is feel sorry for ourselves. We just kind of ground it out. Just worry about the next game."

But that team, which won the Stanley Cup, was a bit more experienced than Tampa Bay, which has had 10 players make their NHL playoff debuts in the first two games. But as Yzerman said, "Inexperience makes it difficult, but also there's no expectations. You don't know any better. Just go out and play the game.

The bad news for the Lightning is Montreal is 49-5 in series in which it had a 2-0 lead, the Elias Sports Bureau said. The good news is it has lost three of its past four.

"We're not focusing on what this series is," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "As far as we're concerned, our mentality is that the series is 0-0 going back home and we need to play our best hockey."

So does Tampa Bay.

"We have nothing to lose," captain Steven Stamkos said. "We're down 2-0, we're going into a hostile environment. We believe in each other. We just have to play with a little more composure and a little more confidence."

They have to bring their "A" game.

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