Lightning doesn’t look for easy excuses after first game disappointment


EDMONTON – Proof that the Tampa Bay Lightning will make this an interesting Stanley Cup final can’t be found so much in what they did as in what they didn’t.

Namely, they didn’t catch any of the easily offered excuses after a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars in Game 1.

The clearest example came from Jamie Oleksiak’s goal which emerged as the winner. The puck was clearly shot into the Tampa area on the wrong side of the center of the ice by Miro Heiskanen, which was accompanied by a lively response from the bench Lightning in real time.

Yet by the time everyone had a chance to double-check the receipts, collective amnesia had set in.

“I haven’t really seen him,” Tyler Johnson said.

“I didn’t watch the game,” said Yanni Gourde. ” I do not know. ”

“To be honest, I don’t really remember the game,” said Kevin Shattenkirk. “Sorry, me neither. ”

As dull as these quotes can be read on paper, this is exactly the answer a team needs after emotional loss. The Lightning had a built-in explanation of why this game might not have been in their favor, but the real reason for a 1-0 series deficit was found more in the slow start and a solid Anton Khudobin’s goalie performance than anything else. .

Tampa didn’t respond particularly well to the 48-hour turnaround after winning the Eastern Conference final and couldn’t reverse a 3-1 deficit even as it edged Dallas 22-2 in the third period.

Oleksiak’s goal was a back-breaker. The linesman didn’t raise his arm for the icing when Heiskanen shot the puck from the wrong side of center, which is almost certainly why Victor Hedman never went below the faceoff point to bring the puck there. washer.

“Well, you wouldn’t be asking the question if you didn’t think the same thing as we might have thought. But that’s a moot point now. So you can’t go back and change the call, ”said Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

They also couldn’t go back and find more meaning in the first few minutes. Dallas set the pace, grabbed a lead, and parked the bus.

This raised questions about a Lightning team giving up the first goal in six straight games. However, they responded with a 1-1 goal each time and lost their grip here in a second period where Dallas regained the lead.

“I’m just disappointed that we have drifted away from our strengths,” said Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh. “It’s a great skating team, very structured, but I think we could have played a little better with our strengths. We simplified our game and went a little earlier north and allowed ourselves to supposedly find our game with our forward control and our play in the attacking zone.

These will be the main talking points ahead of Monday’s second game at Rogers Place.

When the Lightning looks at this Cup opener with clearer eyes, they’ll focus on creating more chaos ahead of Khudobin. Power play will be a natural goal after going 0-for-3 in the third period and seeing it subside late in the Islanders’ series.

“He’s a very good goalie,” said Johnson. “When he’s on, he’s on. I thought we had generated a very good chance and he made some really big saves. Have we done enough? No, because we lost the game. I mean we need to do more. We have to do more than score a goal. ”

Yet, deep down, there was no excuse for this loss. Tampa hasn’t played with nearly the same verve it had in previous rounds.

But the Lightning got down to a real series.

“I think we probably dipped our toes a bit in the water and watched them skate a bit,” said Cooper. “It’s a shame, but you’ve heard me say it a million times: Turn the page and continue.

“Brief memory of the playoffs.”


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