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In their own words: Jon Cooper’s post-game press conference

He spoke to the media about Nikita Kucherov, the growth of Hedman and Stamkos, replay, and why Joe Smith is in the back row.

2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Following their Game Three victory over the Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper answered some questions from the media. The transcription below was edited for clarity.

The leadership of Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos, also the status of Nikita Kucherov.

No update on any of the players unfortunately. I’ll give you that tomorrow. As for the play and especially the guys you mentioned [Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos], there’s a reason why we’re here and there’s a reason why we won tonight. And there’s a reason why this has gone on the last couple of years - the guys you need to lead you have been doing that. Then everyone kind of falls in line.

You watch Stammer’s growth and Hedman’s growth over the years. It’s probably not a coincidence winning has followed us by the way they’ve played and they’ve led. Obviously there’s a number of guys that fall in line with them. A big part too is on our goaltender. For him to go through what he went through two nights ago and then perform like he did tonight. Not only that but to have them score first and then for the team to respond and back him up. I guess that’s how you get to places where we’ve been. Pretty great effort for everybody.

Did you see and do you have thoughts on the Devon Toews hit on Kucherov

When you get asked questions like that they’re looking for an answer that everyone in the building knows. It’s a game, it’s a contact game, but guys know what they’re doing. Smart, savvy players know what they’re doing with their stick and we all saw it. So, we’ll see.

Was their a problem with communication on the called back goal

Here’s the issue and I’ve stated this before, we’re at the mercy of the replays we get. So, somebody could unplug something up top, we could get no replays and something that is a black and white call might be missed. I’m a believer, and I don’t know if I’m in the minority on this, but I don’t know if that should be in our hands. If it’s either onside or offside, I just don’t know why I have to make that decision.

When the stakes are this high, and we were fortunate with the timing and the look and all that stuff and we went for it. Why this happened, you noticed how long it took the refs to make the call, so that’s how close it was and how many angles, I don’t know how many angles they looked at, but they must have looked at a bunch for it to take that long.

I get it, goaltender interference and all that stuff, judgement call, how we feel, I get why the rule is in place. I hope nobody takes this as a complaint, but you almost get in these situations what happened tonight, if ESPN or SportsNet or whoever’s feed is coming in, if there’s a glitch in the screen and you’re under a time constraint, it can be tough. We got away with it tonight, fortunately. In the end, everyone wants to get the call right. And the right call was offside. It can be a little nerve-wracking, because like I said you don’t know what feeds are going to come across.

Everybody, like myself, the TV truck, and everyone is looking for different angles. It can be difficult at times. Sometimes I just wish we didn’t have to make that call, but it worked out.

So you didn’t have the right angle to make the decision?

At the very end an angle came in that looked like, “it’s okay [to challenge]”. It’s an end zone angle from, I don’t know where we got it from. So the guys in the back, I don’t know completely how it all works, but from an end zone angle, the guys inside were, “I can’t tell if it that’s white or grainy. And I’m, “Let’s go with the white”. [Laughter] It turned out to be offside.

Lightning are 7-1 when leading after one period.

Well, scoring was nice. I think a big part of the game was the offside call, then for them to come right away and score. I thought that was the turning point for us in the game. We had to get the next one. We did, and then we got the next one. I think that settled everything down. Not that our team was in panic, it just gave you a little bit of exhale, okay we got one. Because, clearly the game before we could have played for three weeks and we weren’t getting one.

The response was outstanding by the group which we needed and then the puck started going in the net for us. Sometimes you need that break, that goal, we got ‘em and we took off from there.

What was the focus on the Lightning game that you wanted get back to.

I probably use this word too often, but there’s a little recipe in place for how we have success. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see what hasn’t worked for us in games we’ve gotten blown out, and what’s worked for us in the games we’ve won.

A big part of the game is managing the puck. These guys are a hell of a team. They skate, they work, they’ve got skill. You give them an inch, they’ll gonna take a mile. So you’ve got to take away the inches, and you’ve got to take that away all over the ice. There’s a way that gives us a chance to win games and if it breaks down you hope our goalie, which is almost always, is there to make the save for us. We’ve got to spend a little more time in the offensive zone, manage the puck better. It all takes off from there. A couple of other things, but we were a better group tonight.

How big is it to get balanced scoring from the team?

If you’re going to go this far in the playoffs you’re going to need that. It can’t be the same guys every single night. Rarely does a team advance if it’s just the big boys scoring all the time. For Patty [Patrick Maroon] to come out of the box and do what he did, for [Corey] Perry to get one, especially with Pointer [Brayden Point] wasn’t going tonight, for him to contribute. For [Nick] Paul to have the game for awhile and then step on the ice and score in his first 10 seconds on the ice or whatever it was, it was uplifting. When everyone is getting involved it kind of galvanizes the team. It’s great when that happens.

Was there some sort of setback with Point?

Just not playing tonight. Joe, what happened to your seat?

I don’t understand.

Did you come late to the party? [laughter]

Lost the seat, yeah.