As much as the Tampa Bay Lightning are smarting from their 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins to open their Eastern Conference semifinal series, they head into Tuesday’s Game 2 in Toronto believing they remain in control of their destiny.
Sunday’s loss was reminiscent of the way their series with the Bruins two years ago started, and Tampa Bay regrouped to win the next four games and the series.
And the way the Lightning controlled play for most of the final two periods of the series opener should prove they have everything needed to go toe-to-toe with the Bruins.
“When you shrink the game to 40 minutes, it’s going to be tough on you,” coach Jon Cooper said. “I liked a lot of the way our game progressed, but if we’re not going to manage the puck the way we did for much of the Columbus series, it’ll be tough for us. You can’t start games the way we did. It put us on our heels and shortened the game.”
The Bruins staked themselves to a 3-0 lead but Tampa Bay – thanks to a pair of goals by defenseman Victor Hedman – had a chance to draw even before time expired.
“It got better as the game went on, but I still think overall we were a lot sloppier than we normally are,” said forward Tyler Johnson. “We’ve got to make a few more plays tape to tape, not rush things like we were. At the beginning, I don’t think we had our feet into it. I don’t think we were battling and competing hard enough. … The second and third periods were more like our normal games, but we still have a lot more to give.”
The Bruins, well aware of how things shook out two years ago as well as how close the Lightning came to forcing overtime, have more than enough veteran experience to know what to expect next time the puck drops.
Boosting their confidence is the play of goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who was placed front and center after No. 1 one goalie Tuukka Rask left the team early in their opening round series. In four games since stepping into the breach, Halak – who made 35 saves on Sunday – has recorded four victories.
“When they come, they have their chances,” said forward Charlie Coyle. “Jaro is there to shut the door on a number of good chances to keep us ahead. Could be a totally different game. We also have so much confidence in him.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you have arguably the league’s best line in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. They were lights out in the opener, capped by Marchand’s game-winning goal created by Bergeron stealing a puck and getting it to Pastrnak, who promptly slipped a seeing-eye pass for a tap-in tally.
“When our offensive players are doing that, we’re going to be hard to stop because they can finish some plays,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “What I’m learning in this league is it’s a second-effort league. There’s very few guys that are that good that (they) don’t need second effort on pucks. Our guys do it very well, our top guys, and now it’s bleeding into the middle guys to understand that.”
–Field Level Media