Resilience, Lightning Coach Jon Cooper said Thursday, is a word that’s often used too freely, but in this case, his team embodies it. And with two days off between Game 1 on Wednesday and Game 2 on Saturday night in Denver, Tampa Bay had ample time to reflect on its mistakes and make adjustments.
“For me, it’s all about winning the series,” Cooper said. “It’s not about winning Game 1. Yes, would we like to win every single game? No question. . . . It’s a shame we lost Game 1, but let’s turn the page here and see if we can get Game 2. It’s about the series.”
Former Caps winger Andre Burakovsky is poised to make his own history in Colorado
Cooper said Lightning’s loss in Game 1 wasn’t “a matter of effort, it was a matter of execution” and that if Tampa Bay was to avoid going down 2-0 in the Finals, one had to focus on the details. In particular, turnovers must be kept under control and team breakouts must be clean when entering the zone.
The Flash must also counter Colorado’s lethal speed.
“We probably gave up a few more weird rushes than we would have liked,” Cooper said. “It’s largely because of her [defensemen] like jumping in a hurry. You have excellent instincts. . . . Basically you have to shrink the ice.”
Tampa Bay felt like it was reclining for the first 10 minutes of Game 1, uncharacteristically for the experienced team. It found a rhythm after figuring out how to counter Colorado’s attack, but just couldn’t capitalize on overtime.
“Maybe we were just trying to get a feel for them,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said of Tampa Bay’s slow start to Game 1. “It has to be the other way around. We need to get out there and call the shots. We knew they would get off to a good start. We just weren’t as ready as we’d like to be.”
Tampa Bay will also need goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to be at his best. Vasilevskiy allowed three goals on 15 shots in the first 20 minutes of the final, though Cooper called him the team’s best player in Game 1. The three goals were difficult to follow and Vasilevskiy recovered well in the final two frames, not letting Colorado score again until Andre Burakovsky’s overtime dagger.
Vasilevskiy finished the game with 34 saves. Colorado coach Jared Bednar said his team will net more shots in Game 2 to continue their relentless attack.
“I don’t think he got off to a bad start,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said of Vasilevskiy. “He is a world goalkeeper. . . . They had a lot of chances, a few power plays too, and he stood tall; He gave us a chance. As I said, it wasn’t our best game by far.”
Tampa Bay also needs to see continued improvement from center Brayden Point, who Cooper admitted didn’t look like he used to in Game 1. Point, who had a secondary assist in Game 1, was playing in his first game since suffering a first-round lower body injury.
“He’s a warrior,” Stamkos said of Point. “He’ll bang it out. It’s just great for him to come back and great for our team to see him back out there.”