If you're seeking a simple summation for why the Lightning have fallen into an 0-2 deficit, and looking bad in the process, it's this: Montreal is playing very well and the Lightning have been unable to make the adjustments necessary to compete with them. How much of this can be chalked up to inexperience and who has more to learn between the players and the coaching staff are matters that can, and probably will, be debated until next fall. But in terms of right here and now, the Montreal Canadiens are playing playoff hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning are not.
"I thought the first period went our way. For fifteen minutes, we had good jump, we created some chances, the crowd was into it and Lindback made a great save... We had our chances, we were buzzing. Theirs went in and ours didn't. That's the tough part; it's a game of breaks and I thought they got the breaks they needed and we didn't. I know the score isn't going o say it but I thought we were better in this game than Game one." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
The Lightning got off to a much better start than they did Wednesday night. They registered five shots in the first two minutes, during which the Canadiens didn't record one and had trouble even getting across the red line. Neither side was able to score, although the Lightning did maintain the slight edge in shots at 11-10, and the period ended in a scoreless tie.
Lightning fans who thought Wednesday was an aberration, a lesson learned and moved on, were sad to see a regression during the second period. Back to the lack of structure, tentative play and turnovers that figured so prominently in Game 1. Tonight, in what should have been a surprise to nobody, Montreal goalie Carey Price did not have a game like he did Wednesday, when he allowed the Lightning to hang around. .
Around seven minutes in, the Lightning had two golden chances that fell apart in almost identical fashion. First, Alex Killorn found himself with the puck on his stick right in front of Price and a few seconds later Steven Stamkos was in the same spot. Both elected to forego taking a shot in favor of trying to skate behind the net and look for a pass or attempt a wraparound. Both opportunities yielded nothing.
After two periods, it was 2-0 Montreal.
"We needed something. Goalies are pulled for a plethora of reasons. Sometimes you are trying to give your team a spark. I put Gudlevskis in to give us a lift and I felt bad for him that his first rush goes in the net but there is no goaltending controversy." - Cooper
That rush came at the 14:39 mark when Borque scored again, getting an assist from Lars Eller
Eller was whistled for hooking with 2:40 remaining and the Cooper elected to pull Gudlevskis for the additional skater. The desperation move paid off when Teddy Purcell spoiled Price's shutout bid with the 6-on-4 power play goal. Victor Hedman and Valtteri Filppula were credited with assists.
What lies ahead is not a pretty picture. Home ice advantage is gone and the Lightning have to find a way to compete with Montreal and steal at least one game in their building to play again at the Forum.
"I'm pretty confident in this group right now. Every time it looked like we were going on a slide, these guys found a way to rebound. You never know, you win one and all of a sudden you are feeling good about yourselves. You just have to win one. You can't really look at the big picture. Don't hang your head; turn the page and in 48 hours, make sure the series is 2-1. I'm pretty confident in this group right now." - Cooper
The series resumes with Game 3 on Sunday evening in Montreal.
- Lightning players held a closed-door meeting after the game. "We have a good leadership in there and you have a team that cares", said Cooper. "For them to sit down and gather their thoughts about it is good for us."
- Desharnais' goal was the first and only powerplay goal the Canadiens have scored on the Lightning this year. The Tampa Bay penalty kill entered tonight's game 16 for 16 against Montreal.
- The Bolts are now 7-6 all time in playoff Game 2's. Counting tonight, they've won five of their past seven.
- Nikita Kucherov was one of six Lightning skaters to record their first postseason points in Wednesday's series opener. Kucherov recorded a goal in his first regular season game as well.
- The Lightning a season high of 40 hits Monday night, with Radko Gudas leading the way with nine.
- The Lightning honored Robert Blount as the 43rd Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Blount, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Abe Brown Ministries, Inc. After leaving a prosperous and lucrative career, Blount began transforming the community by servicing the less fortunate through faith-based, hands-on leadership and collaboration. He joined Abe Brown Ministries, Inc. first as a volunteer and is now currently serving as their president. The mission of Abe Brown Ministries is to help offenders, ex-offenders and their families to achieve productive and fulfilling lives. Blount is committed to providing hope to those incarcerated and preparing them with life skills that will help them re-join society in a productive manner. He helps people by building their resumes to find employment and coaches them to help improve their social lives so they can get their feet back on the ground. Blount was appointed by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to serve on the Governor's Ex-Offender Task Force and was later selected by his peers to be their Vice Chairman.