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After a split in Toronto, do Lightning have the home-ice advantage?

Notes | Tampa Bay went 28-8-5 at Amalie Arena, but the playoffs are a different kind of animal. Plus, updates to come for Victor Hedman and Erik Cernak.
 
The Lightning went 28-8-5 at Amalie Arena this season, which was tied for the second-most wins in the NHL at home in 2022-23. With three of a possible five remaining games at Amalie, the Lightning have, at least temporarily, claimed home-ice advantage in the series against Toronto.
The Lightning went 28-8-5 at Amalie Arena this season, which was tied for the second-most wins in the NHL at home in 2022-23. With three of a possible five remaining games at Amalie, the Lightning have, at least temporarily, claimed home-ice advantage in the series against Toronto. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published April 22, 2023

TAMPA — The score was awful in Game 2, and the performance may have been worse. And yet the Lightning come home with a theoretical advantage against the Maple Leafs for Game 3 on Saturday night.

By splitting the first two games of their first-round series in Toronto, the Lightning have effectively, and possibly temporarily, claimed home-ice advantage. This is now a best-of-five affair, and three of the remaining games are at Amalie Arena.

And, in case you’ve forgotten, the Lightning were tied for the second-most home wins in the NHL this season. Their plus-75 goal differential at Amalie trailed only Boston’s plus-78.

So, coach Jon Cooper, are the Lightning in the driver’s seat?

“I don’t think you can look at it that way,” Cooper said Friday afternoon. “Each game has its own identity. You start looking ahead, that’s the kiss of death.”

The Lightning were in a similar situation in the opening round against Toronto last season, with the series tied at 1 heading back to Tampa Bay. The Leafs won Game 3 easily 5-2, and the Lightning had to win three of the final four games to take the series.

“Just because we’re coming home doesn’t mean we’re going to win a hockey game,” forward Pat Maroon said. “We’ve got to certainly play a lot better than we did (in Game 2). We know that. We just can’t come in and throw our sticks out there and win a hockey game. It’s going to be difficult.”

Hedman, Cernak decisions still to come

The Lightning had no updates on the status of injured defensemen Victor Hedman and Erik Cernak after arriving in Tampa mid-afternoon on Friday. “No, not yet,” Cooper said. “We’ll know more (Friday) now that we’re in town and we can get some things figured out. I’ll have something more for you (Saturday).” Both players left Game 1 on Tuesday night with unspecified injuries. Cernak took a shot to the head from Toronto forward Michael Bunting, who was suspended for three games. Cernak was quickly ruled out of Game 2, but Hedman’s availability was not announced until just prior to the game.

Pay no attention to the men fighting

The Leafs and Lightning got a little chippy toward the end of Game 2 with a particularly spirited fight between Tanner Jeannot and Luke Schenn. There was no CompuBox numbers from HBO on the fight, but Jeannot appeared to throw as many as 18 punches in about 20 seconds of fighting. “At the end of the game, that’s just what happens when the game is a little bit out of hand,” said forward Alex Killorn. “Yeah, that’s playoff hockey. The intensity goes up, and it’s something we expected.”

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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