With 15 minutes remaining in the third period Sunday night, Boston’s Connor Clifton made a charge toward Tampa Bay’s net down the slot.
Clifton made his way around Erik Cernak but couldn’t find the open ice to get around Ryan McDonagh, colliding with the Tampa Bay defenseman. Both players fell to the ice and got back up, but on McDonagh’s next shift, he only skated for 14 seconds.
With about 10 minutes remaining in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, McDonagh was in the tunnel.
Coach Jon Cooper didn’t have an update after the 3-2 loss at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. “Hopefully, he’s going to be okay because he’s a huge part of our team.”
Behind Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman, McDonagh is the next-best defenseman on the Lightning’s roster.
McDonagh has averaged more time on ice in the playoffs behind Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy at 22:53. On Sunday, he averaged 15:05 over 20 shifts, his lowest of the postseason by 4:54. He also is known for his shot blocking on the other side of the pair with Cernak, and the duo registered a combined six blocked shots.
Hedman notches multi-point game
For brief moments in the third period, Hedman gave the Lightning life, scoring both goals.
“I thought he got rewarded for some of the excellent play he had tonight by getting two of those goals, but we’re going to need him to play like that,” Cooper said. “I thought he pulled our team into the fight as we got going.”
Hedman moved into a tie for fourth place with captain Steven Stamkos among the franchise’s all-time playoff scorers with 53 points (10 goals, 43 assists) in 92 games throughout his career, surpassing Vincent Lecavalier (52).
About midway through the third period, Hedman worked his way through the neutral zone with the puck on his stick and two Boston defensemen in his way.
He skated out to the left side of the ice and shuffled out the puck to the right corner of the ice. The puck rebounded against the boards and into Ondrej Palat’s possession.
Palat fought off multiple Boston players before Brayden Point picked up the puck and passed it back to Hedman, who took a loose one-timer from the top of the slot to put the Lightning on the board.
Hedman’s second goal came with less than two minutes to spare in the third period. The defenseman stayed back along the blueline as Tyler Johnson collected a rebound off the Boston net and passed it across the ice to Kevin Shattenkirk on the right side. Shattenkirk passed it back to Hedman, who took the shot from the top of the faceoff circle.
Surrounding Boston’s Jaroslav Halak — who made 35 saves on the night — around the crease and shooting through traffic seemed to be the key for the Lightning.
“We want to have a shooting mentality,” Hedman said. “We work on that a lot in practice and when we get big bodies in front, it’s tough for a goalie to see the puck. We know what works and what’s going to give us success. You’re not going to score on every shot, but it’s going to create rebounds and some more opportunities for us.”
Even before the first round started, the NHL already was thinking about how to make Scotiabank Arena feel more like home for the bubble teams. John Franzone, the Lightning’s vice president of game presentation, said that among the audio and visual cues planned to re-connect the team to Tampa Bay, video would be key.
Early on, the home touches mostly were contained to pre-game highlights and a familiar national anthem singer, like the Lightning’s own Sonya Bryson-Kirksey. If the Lightning were lucky, they might hear a team-specific chant during the game.
The league amped up its visual game Sunday.
During a TV timeout in the first period, notable Tampa Bay sports figures such as major-leaguer Wade Boggs, WWE superstar Titus O’Neil and Bucs Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks appeared on the digital screens around the arena. They were decked out in Lightning apparel while wishing the team luck and imploring the Lightning to bring home the Stanley Cup.
It felt even more like Amalie Arena during the first intermission, with Lightning organist Krystof Srebrakowski getting air time in Scotiabank.
The NHL also showed more highlight videos of the home team throughout the game.
Times correspondent Lindsay Eastwood contributed to this report.