Experienced Lightning unfazed after Game 1 loss to Islanders

NHL Hockey

The Tampa Bay Lightning trail in a Stanley Cup playoff series for the first time his spring. However, the defending champions are not in uncharted territory as they look ahead to Tuesday’s home clash with the New York Islanders for Game 2 of their semifinal series.

En route to last year’s crown, the Lightning twice dropped the series opener before winning a series, including the Cup final against the Dallas Stars. Therefore, they are not all that fazed after Sunday’s 2-1 loss and well aware of the task at hand.

“They’ve shown the ability to dig their heels in,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “You’ll get a hell of an effort from our guys.”

Effort wasn’t the issue for the Lightning in Sunday’s loss. Their decision making and puck management were substandard, with turnovers — especially at the bluelines — a major problem.

“They’re a very well-structured team and they compete really hard, but you know what, if they have good structure, you just put it behind them,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. “We’re a really good forechecking team, and at times when their (defensemen) sag, it looks like a good opportunity to carry the puck. But if we stick to what has gotten us this far and understand what our strengths are, which is the forecheck, we’ll be OK.”

Patience will be key against an Islanders team that creates so much on the counterattack.

“Sometimes it’s enticing, you want to try to thread something, you see an open guy, but you’ve got to be disciplined and know that they’ve got great defensive players,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “So a lot of times just driving pucks deep and getting to our cycle game and getting some shots and scramble game going, that’s when it opens maybe a seam pass here or there. … We’ll look at that and continue to work toward being higher percentage.”

From the Islanders’ perspective, they played a nearly perfect game in containing Tampa Bay’s offensive standouts.

“We managed the puck, we were disciplined, we didn’t take a lot of unnecessary risk,” New York coach Barry Trotz said. “We checked with our feet … and offensively, we made pretty good decisions in the offensive zone even though we only got two goals. I thought we managed the game pretty well.”

Mathew Barzal’s opening goal was a prime example of the New York game plan. Josh Bailey was in a perfect defensive position to intercept a pass at his own blueline and fired a breakaway pass to Barzal for the golden opportunity he converted.

“They’ve got a lot of skill and forwards that like to make plays off the rush,” said Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock, whose third-period goal was his fourth tally and third game-winning goal of the playoffs. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to our forwards on keeping that high guy and tracking back and allowing us to keep our gaps and just not giving them much time and space there.”

All that said, the Islanders are well-aware of how the Lightning expect to rebound.

“They’re going to make adjustments,” Pulock added. “They’re going to come hard in Game 2. We’ve got to be prepared for that. It was a good win (Sunday), but we’re back at it for Game 2.”

After Tuesday’s clash, the series shifts to Long Island for the next pair of games. Game 3 is set for Thursday, with Game 4 on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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