After the tough fall-from-ahead loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization spoke about the game, how they will bounce back, and missed opportunities.
Their responses have been edited for clarity (Stamkos really likes to start his answers with “Listen”).
You can go through the second and third [periods] and there was a handful of things that changed momentum and hurt our chances of getting some sustained pressure. We can hang our heads about it or turn the page and get ready for a big Game Six, and that’s what we’re going to do.
Was it something Toronto was doing or mistakes by the Lightning?
This is two teams that want to advance so we’re both going hard at each other. Both teams trying to execute their game plan and take advantage when there are mistakes made. It’s a game about limiting mistakes and we can control some of ours. We just need to be a little more consistant.
On being able to bounce back from losses.
We just trust each other. We believe in our group, we believe in our plan. We want it. We want to win, we want to keep having success here. We just put our minds to it here and work as a group, it will go our way.
Drawing on the elimination game against the Islanders series last year
Just not looking for the next goal necessarily within a game, focusing on our end, focusing on not giving up goals and letting our structure and defensive play lead to offensive zone time or offensive chances.
How confident are you that this is heading to a Game Seven?
We’re not looking too far ahead. We’re just looking forward to playing at Amalie in front of our fans and getting the momentum going right off the start and trying to execute our game plan.
Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos
What happened in the third period?
[Stamkos]: Well it didn’t start in the third, it started in the second, I think. Obviously we knew they were going to push and you have to give them credit, they pushed. A tremendous start for us, the start that we wanted. You look back at things and you can nitpick. It’s usually one of those bad omens when you get an extended 5-on-3 [power play] and you don’t score. I always say that is a rule. It wasn’t from a lack of looks, we had some unbelievable looks on the 5-on-3. That can ice the game early and go up 3-0 and that was just disappointing that we didn’t execute. We just sat back too much and got away from our game plan.
Was it hard to get into a flow with all of the penalties called?
[Stamkos]: For whatever reason the standard has been set for this postseason, at least in our series, that they’re calling...a lot. If that’s the standard, then that’s how it’s going to be. I was just frustrated that I took that stick to the face when I had the puck and thought, ‘O.K. everything tonight is being called by the book’ and it just wasn’t called. So that was tough. The standard’s been set. There’s so many penalties, there’s not a lot of 5-on-5 flow, and even the two goals [were] 4-on-4. For whatever reason it’s different this year, but it’s the same way for both teams.
The unfamiliarity of playing 4-on-4
[Hedman]: It shouldn’t be, but when you give up two, we’ve got to be better, that’s the bottom line. Miscommunication on the first one, and then good shot on the second one. We’ll learn from this, go back home, regroup, and get ready for Game Six.
The offensive ability of both teams
[Stamkos]: Like you said there are two very potent offensive capabilities on the ice. When you’re giving up chances to the wrong guys it usually doesn’t end up too well. Tonight the puck was on [Mitch] Marner and [Auston] Matthew’s stick at the end of the game, [John] Tavares and [William] Nylander, their guys that score their goals. They had big ones for them tonight. We’re going to regroup. We knew it was going to be a tough series. Those guys are good over there. We have a group that has responded to these types of situations for a long period of time. We know what to expect heading home and we’ll be ready.
Was it a missed opportunity?
[Stamkos]: It’s a 60-minute game. In order to win at this time of year you have to play a full game. Unfortunately we didn’t. We played a hell of a first fifteen minutes, first period. We just couldn’t replicate that the rest of the game.
The process they go through after losses.
[Hedman]: For us, we regroup quickly. It’s never a good thing when you lose two in a row in the playoffs. We take that upon us and want to rebound. We knew in the past we haven’t been in this situation too many times, facing elimination, the last time was when we faced the Islanders in Game Seven. It’s something we responded well to and we believe in ourselves. That’s the bottom line. Like Stammer said, they’re a great team and we have to expect their best. We’re going back home and expecting to come out there and have the same start, but continue for the full 60 or longer if it takes that. We trust in our group, trust in ourselves.
Coach Jon Cooper
Can you explain how the game went from 2-0 to the end where it didn’t seem like the Lightning had an answer?
I don’t know about that. We’re not really making them earn it. We’re kind of giving it to them. We take two too-many-men penalties, which are momentum-killers. One they score on. That’s on us. We have a power play and then take a penalty to take our self off and give up two 4-on-4 goals. Special teams, you can consider 4-on-4 special teams in a sense, tonight we lost that battle again. Some games we’re winning it and some games we’re not. Tonight I just thought, too many mistakes. Once again they ended up in the back of our net. It’s unfortunate. That game was there for the taking for us and we let it slip through our fingers. It’s on us. Basically the most simplified way I can put it.
Was there a missed opportunity on the 5-on-3?
No. You’re not going to score every time. Did we have some great looks on the 5-on-3? We did. Would it have been great to get that next one? Sure it would have. I’ve said this time and time again, when you get a lead like that, keep them out of your net. We didn’t need any more goals we just had to keep them out and we didn’t do that.
Was there an unfamiliarity playing 4-on-4?
I’m not so sure for teams that’s the first focal point of the season when they’re practicing, is to practice 4-on-4. Remarkably we’ve played a lot in this series, but I don’t even thing we’re leading the 4-on-4 race in the playoffs. I think other series are playing more than us. It’s been odd that there’s been so much, whether it’s 5-on-4 or 5-on-3 or 4-on-4, I’ve never seen that in the playoffs the way it is. Please do not this is an excuse. It’s not be any means, it’s just different from what we’re used to. I think after two periods, Toronto had three 5-on-5 shots. If we’re going to do that, if you’re telling me, ‘Hey Coop we’re going to hold Toronto to three 5-on-5 shots in two periods of hockey’. Now fact-check that, but I think that’s what it was [According to Natural Stat Trick Toronto had 14 5v5 shots, however they only had 2 after the first period] . Special teams are part of the game and in any situation you’re put in, you have to win that situation and we didn’t tonight.
What is the mood, are you confident you’re going to win?
We’re here to win the series. We lost a game tonight. Like I said, we let this one slip away, that’s on us, but we haven’t let this series slip away. We let a game slip away. That’s how you look at it. You have to play it game-by-game. In our run here I think we’ve had one elimination game, and what was the tell-tale sign of that elimination game? We didn’t give up any goals. I’m not saying you have to do that again, but that has to be the mindset of ours, that at times tonight got away from us.