FORT LAUDERDALE | There was heavy traffic between the opposing team's locker room and the players' bench at the FLA Live Arena. The Lightning doctors did a job in the shadows during this second game.
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Before even the first seconds of the meeting, the trainers of the Lightning made stitches on the brow bone of Corey Perry. The 37-year-old winger received his own shot, which had hit the horizontal bar, in the face during the warm-up period.
In the second half, Steven Stamkos crossed Brandon Hagel in the tunnel between the visiting team's bench and the locker room.
Stamkos was returning from a quick visit with the team doctor. The Lightning captain had blocked a shot and his right hand was swollen. Despite the pain, Stamkos returned to his post. At the same time, Hagel was also heading for a quick consultation with the healers. Like Stamkos, Hagel found a way to end the game.
Mikhail Sergachev also spent some time in the locker room during the match after being hit in the face by Sam Bennett. Erik Cernak, another defender, also received treatment. He stopped a shot from Gustav Forsling and was knocked down by a big check from Radko Gudas.
It's no secret. The Lightning don't just have a good hockey team.
Jon Cooper is fortunate to lead players who have understood the art of sacrifice. Since the beginning of the series, Cooper has used the word "commitment" several times to describe the will of his troops.
Despite the Brayden Point injury, the Lightning won the first two games of this Florida battle on Panthers ice. The 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup champions took the lead in this series with a 2-0 lead.
"I'm extremely impressed with their willingness to sacrifice," noted Andrew Brunette the day after the 2-1 loss in Game 2. We can see what it takes. I can show them videos. The Lightning know how to win. »
“I find that for our group, it opens our eyes even wider. They are courageous. All players have the same desire, even their star players block shots. We must be inspired by it. We remain a learning team. »
Brunette has often hit on this highlight of the learning team. The Panthers nevertheless won the President's Cup with a harvest of 122 points (58-18-6). But they hadn't reached the second round of the playoffs until this year in ages (1996).
Possible to believe
The Panthers will now have the mission to emulate the Lightning and win their next two meetings in hostile territory. In the eyes of Brunette, it is still possible to believe in it.
"There are several things that allow me to believe it," he noted. We have often managed comebacks this season. We believe we can do it again. »
“I also really liked our game in the last game. For the second game, I repeat myself, but I liked 59 min 40 s. For the first game, it was 37 or 38 minutes of good hockey. The difference is slim between a win and a loss. They know the details. They know how to close the door and they're good at big times. We are still learning, we want to improve. »
Anthony Duclair and Eetu Luostarinen. Here are the Florida Panthers' only scorers in the first two games of the second round against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a team won't often win with just two goals in two games. And for the Panthers, the big names stay neutral against the Stanley Cup champions of the past two years.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Claude Giroux each have one assist. Aleksander Barkov did not write his name on the score sheet. Ditto for Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Carter Verhaeghe and Aaron Ekblad.
Andrew Brunette logically looked in the direction of the setbacks of his team in numerical superiority to explain this offensive breakdown.
“Am I worried? There is frustration affecting them. So we can say that it is a little worrying, admitted Brunette. It can probably bother them more since they are feeling frustrated. It stems from our play on the power play. We haven't found our rhythm yet. Sometimes it just takes one goal. The work and the desire are there. When you're not producing, you can get frustrated. It plays on performance even if we do several good things. »
Zero in 25
Prior to this series, the Panthers were zero-for-18 on the power play. They are now zero in 25. They have not hit the target despite seven chances in two games against the Lightning.
"It's okay, you can ask me about it," Brunette replied. We had several discussions. We trust our best players. There are adjustments I can make. I liked our last chance on the power play in Game 2. We have several options on the table. But I really think we just need a goal. But what do I know! »
Brunette had removed defender Aaron Ekblad from his first wave late in the game to opt for a five-forward formation.
♦ Winger Mason Marchment is not expected to return for the next two games in Tampa. Brunette has confirmed that he is still injured.
♦ Anton Lundell, a rookie center, did not touch the ice for the last two periods in the last game. Brunette clarified that it was her decision to bench him. The Finn is not injured.