PITTSBURGH — With nine Lightning players making their first playoff appearances Wednesday, a primer was in order.
So on Tuesday, on the team bus from the airport to the hotel, players watched a DVD of Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup run. They watched more on the bus from the hotel to the team dinner.
"It was more for the guys that haven't gone through it to see just how it is, how physical it was," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "It gave them a feel of the atmosphere and how it's an emotional roller coaster."
"You see the competitiveness and the sacrifices those guys made," C Steven Stamkos said. "It was motivation for everyone. Your best players have to be your best players. I'm excited about the opportunity."
The nine newbies: Stamkos and fellow forwards Teddy Purcell, Sean Bergenheim, Nate Thompson and Dana Tyrell; defensemen Victor Hedman, Mike Lundin and Matt Smaby; and G Mike Smith.
Coach Guy Boucher, too, had never been in an NHL playoff game. He has downplayed the pressure, saying his team has played with the intensity of playoff hockey all season.
"So we don't have to be different," he said. "We just have to be ourselves. We played a certain way for 82 games, and we don't want to change that."
Still, it didn't hurt to see what the team accomplished in 2004 with Lecavalier and Cup teammates Marty St. Louis and Pavel Kubina doing commentary.
"Seeing those guys that went through it and hearing the guys and all the emotions, a lot of emotions run through you," RW Adam Hall said. "It's something you have to believe in your mind's eye for it truly to be possible."
INSPIRING: Wayne Fleming is out of sight but not out of mind.
The Lightning assistant, not with the team after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last week, sent a message that was written on the message board in the locker room.
"Great day for playoff hockey; embrace and savor the moment."
"He's motivating us," Lecavalier said. "We're going to play for him in the playoffs and play hard."
BATTERED: St. Louis was not available after the game because he needed a double root canal on the two teeth loosened by a high-stick to the mouth from Pittsburgh D Zbynek Michalek. St. Louis still had 17:53 of ice time to lead Tampa Bay forwards.
ASSESSMENT: How did Stamkos do in his first NHL playoff game? He had 16:32 of ice time with just one shot on goal.
"All the youngsters were nervous," Boucher said. "He got some speed and a few chances. He'll be better in the next game."
Stamkos has just five goals over his past 29 games and 10 shots over his past seven.
"I need to find a way to score some goals and create some chances," he said.
SEEING CLEARLY: Lecavalier is keeping his visor — for now. He was under doctor's orders to wear one for at least the rest of the regular season after he was hit in the right eye April 3 by a stick blade in Chicago.
ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning outhit Pittsburgh 44-35. RW Steve Downie had a team-best six hits. … Boucher went with 12 forwards, so three defensemen were scratched, Randy Jones, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Smaby (lower back).
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.