TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Lightning showed its youth with mistakes and missed opportunities that cost it in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“You can’t just leave some of these guys open the way we did or give them the chances we did,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “You give them enough chances to score and eventually they did.”
While being outshot 44-25, Anders Lindback allowed Tampa Bay to be able to hang around for as long as they did.
“They're a team that likes to throw a lot of pucks at the net,” Lindback said. “I felt good and now we have to look forward to a new day tomorrow and get right back at it.”
Nikita Kucherov opened up scoring midway through the first with his first career playoff goal by squeezing the puck through Josh Gorges and Carey Price’s legs to give the Bolts an early 1-0 lead.
Yet 19 seconds later the Habs changed the tone by tying the contest at one when Tomas Plekanec deked around a tripped up Radko Gudas in the Bolts' defensive zone.
The Canadiens continued to badger Lindback with shots, as the Lightning struggled to generate their own opportunities. By the close of the first period ,the Habs’ led in the category 14-4.
“We had our share of grade-A’s,” Cooper said. “Our issue was we were one-and-done all the time. We were trying for the home run play a little too often instead of getting the zone time and controlling the play. Instead, they did a little bit of that to us.”
The minimal scoring chances continued for Tampa Bay in the second, but they also slowed down for Montreal when both sides stepped up the physical play. Cedric Paquette’s battling with Daniel Briere and captain Steven Stamkos defending fellow Bolt, Ondrej Palat, when Andrei Markov knocked him over after a whistle highlighted the second period.
Stamkos made an impact on the scoreboard with less than seven minutes left in the second when he corralled the puck from the defensive to offensive zone and finished with a beautiful wrist shot from the right face-off circle to give the Bolts a 2-1 lead.
Yet the pushing and pulling continued.
Brian Gionta scored a shorthanded goal that tied the game when the Lightning seemed to be building on their play. Lars Eller then followed up to give Montreal its first lead of the game at 5:10 of the third, leaving the Bolts to play catch-up.
Tampa Bay stayed composed and answered back both instances when trailing, with the help of Alex Killorn and Stamkos again for a 4-4 tie.
“We fell behind twice in the third period and found a way to bounce back both times,” Cooper said. “We have better in us, but the guys handled it well.”
A strong effort on the penalty kill from the Bolts helped force overtime at the end of regulation. Johnson lost his stick while a man down, but used his body to stop a puck in front of Lindback and J.T. Brown dived out on the ice to block another Habs' shot.
The Lightning had a handful of opportunities in overtime to win the game as they registered a better single shot total in the extra frame (nine) than any other period of the night.
However the Canadiens had the last say, when Dale Weise scored with 1:52 left in the first overtime period.
“All of us have played in playoff series,” Killorn said. “We understand there are highs and lows. The more you remain even-keeled and the more positive you are the better it will turn out. We have a lot better, we know what we’re dealing with, and we can go up from here."
ODDS ‘N ENDS – Six different Bolts recorded their first NHL playoff point Wedesnday: Nikita Kucherov (goal), Alex Killorn (one goal, one assist), J.T. Brown (assist), Cedric Paquette (assist), Tyler Johnson (assist)…Ondrej Palat left the game early in the second period and did not return. He logged 14:05 TOI…Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Ben Bishop, B.J. Crombeen, Ryan Malone, Tom Pyatt and Andrej Sustr were scratched.