TAMPA, Fla. — It was certainly gut check time for the Tampa Bay Lightning once again in these playoffs as they were down 0-2 for a second-straight series. But the back-to-back defending champions responded in a big way with a 6-2 Game 3 win on Monday night.
This comes after a 7-0 shutout win for Colorado in Game 2, leaving many wondering if Tampa's three-peat dreams were dead in the water.
“Their discipline changed," Denker said on Locked On Sports Today. "The first couple of games we saw an undisciplined hockey team. We saw the struggles surface during the regular season, mostly in the month of April where we saw a couple of losing streaks…While the Lightning gave up the first goal in Game 3, I thought they did a really good job of buckling down after that and not letting this game get away from them like we saw in the first two games.”
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Denker said the advantage for the Lightning now is that they don't have to figure out a winning formula, they know how to win in the Stanley Cup Finals. Now the mission is to replicate the same performance they had in Game 3.
“They know what they need to do at this point," Denker said. "They saw it work during the Toronto series, the Florida series and when they were two down to the Rangers. This isn’t a team still trying to figure out a winning formula, we’ve seen them do it during the last two Cup runs. It’s all a matter of going out and replicating that same performance. And it’s easier said than done.”
Two nights after yielding seven goals in a blowout loss, Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy rebounded with 37 saves in a 6-2 victory Monday night.
The Lightning still trail the best-of-seven series 2-1 after bouncing back from the most lopsided playoff loss in franchise history to beat the Avalanche in Game 3. Coach Jon Cooper is confident his team is trending in the right direction.
“I probably use this word too often, but there’s a recipe in place for us to have success. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see what hasn’t worked for us in games where we’ve gotten blown out and what’s worked for us in the games we’ve won. A big part of it is managing the puck,” Cooper said.
“(The Avalanche) are a hell of a team. You give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. So you have to take away the inches all over the ice,” the coach added. “And if it breaks down you hope your goalie is there to make a save for you. If you manage the puck, it all takes off from there.”
Game 4 is Wednesday night at Amalie Arena, with Colorado looking to move within one victory of its first Stanley Cup title since 2001 and Tampa Bay continuing its bid for the NHL’s first three-peat in nearly 40 years.
The Lightning were down 0-2 to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals before winning four straight to advance. They're hoping for a similar story in the Stanley Cup Finals.
“The Lightning need to win the battles between the battles, the game within the game," Denker said.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report