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Lightning try to balance emotions heading into Game 7 vs. Islanders

As Tampa Bay’s first elimination game in three years approaches, players and coaches try to feed off the excitement while blocking out the distractions.
From left, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, right wing Steven Stamkos, left wing Alex Killorn and center Brayden Point celebrate Stamkos’ second goal during the second period of Game 5 against the Islanders.
From left, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, right wing Steven Stamkos, left wing Alex Killorn and center Brayden Point celebrate Stamkos’ second goal during the second period of Game 5 against the Islanders. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jun. 25

TAMPA — Alex Killorn has been in this kind of situation before, having faced elimination in a best-of-seven playoff series four times during his nine-year career.

When it comes to such circumstances, the Lightning forward said he tries to feed off the excitement of Game 7 without getting caught up in the outside distractions.

“I think it’s a balance of both,” Killorn said. “You try to ignore the distractions for sure, but for me, the nervous energy, and the excitement, I like to use that. It gives me energy.”

Related: How will Lightning adjust to potentially being without Nikita Kucherov in Game 7?

Tonight will mark the Lightning’s first Game 7 in the postseason since May 23, 2018, a 4-0 Eastern Conference final loss to the Washington Capitals, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Lightning forward Blake Coleman said he’s trying to treat Game 7 “like any other game.” He doesn’t plan to change his pregame routine (a stretch, a meal, a nap) and knows the emotions will build up naturally as game time approaches.

Tonight will be the first Game 7 of Coleman’s five-year NHL career. He said the steady vibe in the locker room has helped keep the group from getting too high after a win or too low after a loss.

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“We’re excited to play (the Islanders) at home here, and we really like our group,” he said. “We prove it time and time again that there’s no stage too big for this group, so we’re excited. Obviously, this is what it’s all about. Kids dream about playing in Game 7s with a shot at the finals on the line. ... Puck drop can’t come soon enough.”

The same can be said for coach Jon Cooper, who will stand behind the bench for the fifth Game 7 of his career. He split the first four.

Related: Lightning lean on playoff experience, both the highs and lows, in approaching Game 7

Emotions for Cooper are different than they were six years ago — when the Lightning met the Red Wings in the first round of the 2015 playoffs — because he feels more prepared.

“You have to trust what you’ve done during the year for moments like this,” Cooper said. “This is no time to sit here and reinvent the wheel. ... It’s been your process all year, and you have to trust in your system, your team, your players, your coaches, that everything you’ve done all year to get us to this point, trust in that and the game will take care of itself.”

Attendance remains the same

The Lightning announced an increased capacity of 14,800 (about 78 percent of Amalie Arena’s capacity) ahead of the semifinal series against the Islanders.

Capacity will remain the same for Game 7, according to the team. If the Lightning advance to the Stanley Cup final against the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay could seek approval to expand beyond 14,800.

The Lightning have yet to sell out or reach maximum capacity this postseason. For Monday’s Game 5 shutout win, attendance was 14,791 (nine short of a sellout). Attendance has steadily increased each home playoff game this year while still remaining under the maximum allowable.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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