TAMPA — The coach did not sound particularly thrilled, and that’s understandable. It’s his job to preach discipline and good judgment, and the Lightning occasionally forgot both when Saturday’s game started to turn nasty.
On the other hand, standing up for yourself matters.
And standing up for teammates matters even more.
So yes, Lightning players might have allowed the Flyers to get under their skin in the final 30 minutes Saturday. And yes, that probably had something to do with Philadelphia nearly erasing a three-goal deficit.
But at the end of their 5-3 victory, the Lightning were not apologizing.
“Anytime you’re in a team sport, it’s kind of like brotherly love in here, right? You stick up for your family, and that’s what we’re going to do,’’ Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “That’s been a point of emphasis. It’s been no secret some of the guys we brought into this lineup are big, strong guys that are going to be able to help us out in those situations, and they have.
“You look at (Luke) Schenn, you look at (Braydon Coburn), you look at (Pat) Maroon, (Erik) Cernak. These are big boys that can take care of business on the ice, and it just lets you breathe a little sigh of relief when you’re out with them. So, it’s been great to have them.’’
If you had any doubt about the lessons of camaraderie, just rewind the video to near the end of the second period.
The game had already gotten a little uncomfortable, with Mikhail Sergachev yanking Travis Konecny around by his sweater, Yanni Gourde taking an elbow to the head, and Stamkos and Konecny trading punches near the boards.
So when Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped a shot with 2:48 remaining in the second and Anthony Cirelli tried to clear Travis Sanheim from the front of the net, things got interesting quickly. Sanheim turned on Cirelli but was grabbed by Coburn before he could do any damage.
That’s when Kevin Hayes went after Cirelli and was intercepted by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Finally, Konecny dove in and ripped Cirelli’s helmet off before Alex Killorn stepped in to protect his teammate.
“That’s the kind of game they wanted to get into, and there’s not much you can do,’’ Killorn said. “You try not to take penalties, and you try to play within the whistles, but you also have to stand up for yourself, so it’s kind of a tough balance.
“Guys like Maroon and Schenn have helped a ton. When you look at our lineup, there are more guys who are willing and able to step up and defend teammates. Everyone in the league knows those guys will stand up, so now maybe the mindset changes a little bit with them on the ice.’’
The big boys and veterans haven’t been the only ones willing to get physical. Sergachev’s presence has been growing in the past two months. Cirelli and Gourde have never been afraid to take on bigger players.
The preferred method is to pick your spots and deliver your hits within the context of the game. Not letting another team push you around might be important, but you also cannot take on a 10-minute misconduct penalty the way Cernak did at the end of the second period.
Coach Jon Cooper was asked if it was a good lesson for the Lightning to avoid being pulled into that type of penalty-heavy game.
“But we did get dragged into it,’’ Cooper said.
It did not cost the Lightning anything other than some anxious moments Saturday. And maybe there will be a game in the future where it might tip the score in the wrong direction, but that might also be the price of making a larger point to teammates and opponents, too.
“It’s hockey. That stuff happens. It’s an aggressive sport, a sport where sometimes your emotions can get the best of you,’’ Stamkos said. “It’s the team that can stay disciplined (that wins), but at the same time, we’re not going to let teams try to do that to us. For the most part, we don’t want to take any dumb, stupid penalties. I don’t think we did. It sucked that Cernak got the 10-minute misconduct. We’d rather him be on the ice.
“But like I said, we’re going to stick up for each other in this room.’’
John Romano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.