TAMPA BAY – The whole “it’s a journey, not a sprint” line might be a bit cliche when it comes to playoff runs, but it’s true. And the Tampa Bay Lightning know that better than anyone.
“At the end of day, we lost the game, not the series,” defenseman Victor Hedman said after Game 2.
“People are gonna be watching this game tonight and probably think the series is over. But we’re a very resilient group,” captain Steven Stamkos added.
It was easy to write off the Lightning after a pair of ugly games at Ball Arena, knocking them to 0-2 with a chance to lose the Stanley Cup at home. The 7-0 loss on Saturday was one of the biggest butt-kickings we’ve seen in a very long time in the final, and one that really made you question if Tampa had it in them for a third run.
But you gotta win four of them. And it’s far from over. But that’s an incredible way to start the home stretch, and you can’t answer a 7-0 loss much bigger than they did on Monday than with a 6-2 victory.
You got goals from the stars — Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat — you got goals from the depth guys — Nick Paul, Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon — and some strong goaltending by Andrei Vasilevskiy, highlighted by a key first-period pad save.
That’s more like the Bolts we’ve become accustomed to, and one that knows how to come back in situations like they’re in.
It was like Jon Cooper used an Uno reverse card on his team tonight. And it worked.
Every Stanley Cup final game should be treated as a must-win, and the Lightning know that better than anyone. They looked more urgent in the first, and while they allowed the opening goal — and another before that that was ultimately waved off for being offside — they battled back and took a 2-1 lead into the first period.
By the end of the second, it was 6-2, far and away putting them ahead. Finally, after two games filled with misery, Tampa was back doing what they do best, and doing so without Brayden Point in the lineup.
The Lightning were a goal away from winning Game 1, but the stats showed just how much better the Avalanche were in that contest. This was the first true effort where Tampa shined above their opponents and deservedly took Game 3.
But that’s just one victory. Either Tampa ties it up and it’s a best of three going forward, or Colorado takes Game 4 and can win it at home later this week. Either way, it’s still do-or-die hockey.
Sound familiar? They came back from 0-2 against a determined New York Rangers team. They trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs on a couple of occasions, including being down 3-2 at one point. To get this far in a dnasty run, you’ll have some bumps and bruises along the way. And the team with 11-straight playoff runs has been through just about everything.
So, a 0-2 series start didn’t worry them. Obviously, it’s different in the Cup final, and different against a team that dominated the competition to get to this point. And the Avalanche were definitely the better team in the third, forcing Vasilevskiy to play big hockey. The Bolts were lucky they had such a big lead at that point.
Either way, the more hockey we get in this series, the better. Sure, there’s been a few blowouts, but the fun’s just getting started.