TAMPA — The Penguins expected the Lightning to start strong Wednesday night and the Lightning did. And, according to Sidney Crosby, the Penguins expect the Lightning to do the same Friday when the teams return to the ice for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final.
That the visiting Penguins hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series matters little, Crosby said.
"It's one game," Crosby said after Wednesday's 4-2 victory at Amalie Arena. "We played really well. We deserved to win. (But) you expect them to come out hard (Friday)."
The Lightning should play with a little desperation Friday, knowing that heading back to Pittsburgh for Sunday's Game 5 down 3-1 is not ideal.
This is only the second time the Lightning has trailed in a series during this postseason.
"We've been in three playoffs together, and we've been every different way — up two, down two, up 2-1, down 2-1 —nothing we haven't seen before," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "When you're playing in the playoffs, you have to have a really short memory regardless if you're playing well or not. That's it. Turn the page tonight, and tomorrow's a new day. Sun's coming up, I think, and we'll be ready to go."
They Lightning has been outplayed during the last two-games, with the deeper, faster Penguins holding an 89-49 edge in shots on goal.
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, filling in for the injured Ben Bishop, has played well. But there is only so much a goalie can do without help from his defense.
Whether it's Vasilevskiy in net Friday or Bishop, this much remains the same: a Lightning win and it's a best of three-game series. A Penguins win and the Lightning are in trouble.
"It's first to four. We know that," Penguins center Nick Bonino said. "We lost the first game and there was no panic here. They're down 2-1 and I'm sure there's not a lot of panic over there. These are two good teams — that's a team with a lot of playoff experience, and we're going to expect their best Friday."