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Lightning have shown ability to rebound from playoff losses. Can they again?

Dating back to 2015, Tampa Bay is 7-3 in postseason series in which it has lost the opening game.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) takes off with the puck from Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) during the second period of Game 1 of Monday in Toronto.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) takes off with the puck from Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) during the second period of Game 1 of Monday in Toronto. [ FRANK GUNN | AP ]
Published May 3|Updated May 3

TORONTO — One of the most remarkable themes of the Lightning’s back-to-back title runs was the resolve they showed rebounding from a loss. Over the past two postseasons, Tampa Bay has followed each of its 14 defeats with a win in the next game.

The Lightning’s ability to make adjustments allowed them to rebound in every series they played in 2020 and ‘21, ultimately coming out on the winning end.

So while Toronto celebrates its Game 1 win Monday at Scotiabank Arena, Tampa Bay is reminded that it has won seven series in which it lost Game 1 dating back to 2015.

“Learn from what we did last night, or what we didn’t do, and move on,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “During the regular season, you’re on a plane to Ottawa or Montreal. Playoffs, it’s one team, you dive in a little bit more.

“We’ve had a feel for what this is going to be, in the building and the players. But we’ve got to dig a little deeper. The players know that. It was way too easy a night for their goaltender. We’re a proud group, and I’m not worried about these guys.”

The Lightning rebounded from two Game 1 losses to advance to the Stanley Cup final in 2015. Over the past two postseasons, they lost the opening game three times — including to Dallas in the 2020 Cup final — and came back to win each series.

“The mood (Tuesday) is much different than it was (Monday),” Cooper said. “You build on things you have in the past. (Monday) was ugly. Let’s make no bones about it. But this isn’t the first time we’ve lost Game 1 and come back to win the series. It’s not ideal, but it’s not like it uncharted water, either.”

The Lightning’s 5-0 loss to the Maple Leafs in Game 1 was unique in how lopsided the play was. Tampa Bay hadn’t lost a playoff game by five goals since the franchise’s first postseason in 1996.

“Just see what we did wrong,” Lightning forward Pat Maroon said. “It’s easy fixes I feel like when stuff like that happens, when we have a game like (Monday). We’re a good team that knows how to respond when we come through after a loss.

“But again, we’re playing a very good hockey team, and obviously we’re gonna get their best every single night. We’ve got to make it harder on them, too. I’m pretty confident in this group, so just going to go out there and just put our work hat on and go to work here now.”

Though their playoff opener was a dud, the Lightning have earned the benefit of the doubt, given their performance over the past several postseasons. In fact, the Leafs expect a strong response in Game 2.

“I think we’re expecting a push. It’s an important game, they’re a great team,” said Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly. “They’re back-to-back champions of this league for a reason, so I wouldn’t expect anything less than a great effort, a push. It’s on us to respond and be ready.”

Lightning assistant Derek Lalonde said bouncing back starts with recognizing what went wrong in the previous game.

“I wouldn’t call it negative,” Lalonde said, “but a picture of why things went poorly with solutions.”

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Once the Lightning left their practice rink Tuesday, they put Game 1 behind them and started game- planning for Game 2, which will continue into Wednesday’s morning skate and team meeting.

“That’s a huge credit to our guys,” Lalonde said of the Lightning’s ability to rebound. “It’s a little bit of a proven process when you’ve done it in the past. Guys have some belief in it, and I think you saw it (Tuesday).”

The Lightning spent a significant amount of time early in practice working on the power play, which went 0-for-5 Monday, then focused on playing more concisely with quicker tempo.

“We’ve got a lot of leadership in that room,” newcomer Nick Paul said. “They don’t let the negativity or anything seep in. Everything is positive. We’ve got to build on that. We’ve got to learn from what happened. It’s a great room. Guys know what they’re doing, and guys know how to win. We’re prepared, and we’re not going to let what happened in the first game happen in the second.”

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