Transcript: Cooper says, “If you’re not going to defend, you’re not going to win”

Transcribed for accessibility. Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper discusses the team’s three-game losing streak and his “defense-first” philosophy.

Quick Note: For the sake of clarity and fluency, I have omitted extraneous uses of the phrases, “and,” “so,” “but,” “you know,” and “I mean.”

Cooper: A lot of frustrating games this year. This ranks up there though, just with how important the game is to us. To have a 3-2 lead at home going into the third [period] in a must-win for us and to give it up like we did, it’s frustrating to say the least.

Question: We’ve talked about how much experience you do still have in that [locker] room - players who have been through this type of situation before. With that in mind, how much did that surprise you - the way that you did play in the third [period]?

Cooper: Well, they scored - they got those two quick goals in the third. Ultimately in the end, you have to keep the puck out of the net if you want to win. That’s it.

In our last two games, we’ve scored three [goals in each game]. In the past when we’ve made a commitment to play D [defense], we’ve won those games. Regardless, we’ve gotten points out of those games.

To give up five, five, and five [goals each in the last three games], all of a sudden defending hasn’t become important. If you’re not going to defend, you’re not going to win. That’s where I think the guys gotta get that back inside ‘em.

Because you look at the stretch of 15-17 games prior to these three, it was 1-1, 2-1 - and we won. It seems now it’s gotta be 6-5 or it’s not fun. That’s how it used to be here for a long time. We’re going nowhere if that’s the attitude we’re going to have.

Question: Is there any more symbolic play than watching the puck go off your defenseman’s glove and go into the empty net to seal the...

Cooper: I don’t know. At that point... Bottom line is we had a power play and a half before that went in and we didn’t get a shot on goal. That’s when your big players gotta step up. Who knows if you’re going to score?

Power play scores at 20% so you’ve got a one-in-five chance. But we’ve got to make an effort to score and we didn’t. The only shot on goal in those power plays was the one that went in the net against us. That’s a little bit frustrating.

They gave us a chance to come back into it, we couldn’t do it. Ultimately, we can look here - for me, the most telling stat was they had 25 blocked shots; we had six [blocked shots]. It just showed you the mentality of what went on tonight.

Question: How do you keep them [the players] now from getting too down because you have another big game coming on Thursday in Boston [against the Bruins]?

Cooper: Well, they’re professionals. There’s a lot of guys in there working their tail off. Again, it was a pretty fast game. They had a bunch of guys out there that could skate. It turned into a little bit of a track meet at times, but that’s when you have to buckle down and not let it become that.

We spent a lot of time in their end, but ultimately we couldn’t get much through because they were defending. You can sit in your end all night if you’re going to defend. Then you come out, just go down the ice, and score. That’s what they did. As I said, we were too worried about scoring goals instead of keeping them out of our own net.

Question: Did you think the effort was there? You mentioned shots...

Cooper: Well, that’s... the guys... [sigh]. Blocking shots, you’ve got to be fearless to do that. It’s getting in lines and it’s doing those type of things that help you win games. Six blocked shots, that’s an extremely low number.

That’s not how it is every night for us, but we needed it be higher than that. As I said, were their shots just getting through? They had 30-plus shots, but they didn’t have much more attempts.

I think they only had 45 attempts during the game. That’s a really good number. You look at that and say, “Okay. We only gave that team 45 attempts,” but ultimately we didn’t block enough and too many shots hit the net. That was it.

Question: You’re no further out [of the playoffs race] than you were [because Boston lost to Ottawa]. That’s a small...

Cooper: Yeah, but we’re running out of real estate. That’s the issue.