Tampa Bay confident in its bounce-back abilities ahead of Game 2


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DENVER — The Tampa Bay Lightning finds itself in a familiar situation entering Game 2 of these Stanley Cup finals, down 1-0 in the series to a potent Colorado Avalanche team looking to dethrone the two-time defending champion.

It is the third time Tampa Bay has lost the first game of a series this postseason, digging itself in a hole that is temporarily frustrating for the veteran group. However, Tampa Bay’s focus is always on the bigger picture.

Resiliency, Lightning Coach Jon Cooper said Thursday, is a word often used too freely, but in this case, it embodies his team. And with two days off in between Game 1 on Wednesday and Game 2 on Saturday night in Denver, Tampa Bay had ample time to go over its mistakes and make adjustments.

“To me, it’s about winning the series,” Cooper said. “It’s not about winning Game 1. Yeah, would we like to win every single game? There’s no question. . . . It sucks we lost Game 1, but let’s turn the page here, and let’s see if we can get Game 2. It’s about the series.”

Former Caps winger Andre Burakovsky ready to write his own story in Colorado

Cooper said the Lightning’s Game 1 loss wasn’t “an effort thing, it was an execution thing” and if Tampa Bay wanted to avoid going down 2-0 in the finals, it will need to focus on the details. Turnovers, specifically, will need to be kept in check and team breakouts need to be clean when entering the zone.

The Lightning also will have to counteract Colorado’s lethal speed.

“Probably gave up a couple more odd-man rushes than we would have liked,” Cooper said. “In large part, that’s because their [defensemen] like jumping into the rush. They’ve got outstanding instincts. . . . Basically shrinking the ice is what you have to do.”

Tampa Bay felt as if it sat back for the first 10 minutes of Game 1, which was uncharacteristic for the experienced team. It found a rhythm after it figured out how to counter Colorado’s attack but just couldn’t capitalize in overtime.

“Maybe we were just trying to get a feel for them,” Lightning forward Alex Killorn said of Tampa Bay’s slow start in Game 1. “It’s got to be the other way around. We have to come out and set the tone. We knew they were going to have a good start. We just weren’t as ready as we’d like to be.”

Tampa Bay also will need goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to be at his best. Vasilevskiy let in three goals on 15 shots in the first 20 minutes of the finals, though Cooper called him the team’s best player in Game 1. The three goals were difficult to track, and Vasilevskiy rebounded well in the final two frames, not letting Colorado score again until the overtime dagger from Andre Burakovsky.

Vasilevskiy finished with 34 saves. Colorado Coach Jared Bednar said putting more shots on net will be a focus for his team in Game 2, continuing its relentless attack.

“I don’t think he had a rough start,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said of Vasilevskiy. “He’s an all-world goaltender. . . . They’ve had a ton of chances, a couple of power plays as well, and he stood tall; he gave us a chance. Like I said, it wasn’t our best game by far.”

Tampa Bay also will need to see continued improvement from center Brayden Point, who Cooper admitted didn’t look like his usual self in Game 1. Point, who had a secondary assist in Game 1, was playing in his first game since he suffered a lower-body injury in the first round.

“He’s a warrior,” Stamkos said of Point. “He’s going to gut it out. It’s just great for him to get back and great for our team to see him back out there.”



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