TAMPA — Jon Cooper remembers June 15, 2015 like it was yesterday.
Just over six years ago, the Lightning coach watched the Chicago Blackhawks hoist the Stanley Cup on home ice after they defeated Tampa Bay 2-0 in Game 6 of the final.
Cooper sat on the bench with then-Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman and waited “an excruciating minute or two” as the Blackhawks celebrated the win before Chicago captain Jonathan Toews got his team to the handshake line.
“I think that’s such a poignant moment in sports when that happens, out of respect and then the respect the captain has of the winning team to rally his troops again for the handshake line so at that time we can get off the ice,” Cooper said. “I thought Toews did a good job.”
“... I couldn’t watch it. I think I’m looking away from the whole thing until I see out of the corner of my eye the handshake line started, and then we got in that line.”
The memory is painful, but Cooper’s team now has a chance to make its own memories Wednesday at Amalie Arena when it faces the Canadiens in Game 5. The Lightning hold a 3-1 series lead and stand 60 minutes away from possibly raising the Cup on home ice.
No team in the NHL has won the Cup at home since that 2015 season. The Penguins won both of their back-to-back Cups on the road at San Jose in 2016 and Nashville in 2017. The Capitals won in 2018 at Vegas, and in 2019, the Blues won at Boston. Last year, the Lightning beat the Stars in the bubble in Edmonton.
“We missed an opportunity (Monday) night,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “Our group knows that, and you turn the page pretty quick here this morning and you realize what a great opportunity you have here as a team, as a group, as an organization, up 3-1 in the series and you have to win one more and you’re going into a place you’re familiar with, with a fan base that’s going to be behind us.
“We have to go out there and give it our best effort and try to win one hockey game.”
Forward Anthony Cirelli said the fans have been “unbelievable all season,” so to have the chance to clinch at Amalie would be “pretty special.”
“(But) we’re not looking too far ahead,” he said. “And we’re just going to be focused on a period at a time and be ready to go from the first puck drop.”
Who: Lightning vs. Canadiens, Game 5
When: Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Where: Tampa, Florida, at Amalie Arena
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