The Tampa Bay Lightning are moving on to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals, using their flight home Sunday morning and a day off to turn the page following an emotional 3-2 loss at the New York Islanders in Game 4 on Saturday that tied the best-of-7 series.
The Lightning scored two goals in the third period but fell one short, and will try to retake the series lead Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“This is a day we can clear our heads, get away from the rink, get on the plane, enjoy the day, go home with your families and just kind of relax and prepare yourself to be ready for the morning skate on Monday,” Lightning forward Pat Maroon said. “You can take it how you see it. Some players take it differently than other players. For us, I think, this is just get on a plane, relax, clear our heads here and get back to work Monday.”
There is value in that, especially during a grinding series in which goals are hard to come by, with plans now being made for a return trip to Uniondale, New York, for Game 6 on Wednesday.
Game 7 is looking like a real possibility as well, considering how even the series has been; Tampa Bay holds a 9-8 advantage in goals, the difference being a 4-2 home win in Game 2.
“You have to look ahead, you have to move forward,” forward Tyler Johnson said. “Be ready to play a full 60 minutes.”
The Lightning have been the best team in the League following a loss in Stanley Cup Playoff games since the beginning of last postseason. They’re 11-0 in such games, including 4-0 in these playoffs.
“We don’t focus on the series itself, we focus on the task at hand, the job at hand at that moment in time,” Maroon said. “The guys do a good job, adjustments are made and the players kind of buckle up when they need to and play the right way when we need to.”
The adjustment Tampa Bay needs to make for Game 5 is similar to what it did after a 2-1 loss in Game 1; play smarter through the neutral zone for the entire game with a straight-line attack mentality and managing the puck better instead of being tentative.
The Lightning lost that mentality in Game 4, when the Islanders scored three goals in the second period.
“Our group is really good when we are attacking the other teams, when we are putting them on their heels,” defenseman Jan Rutta said. “I don’t think we did enough of that in the second. We were just defending. That’s not good enough. I think we’ve got to attack more.”
They did in the third period, when they scored two goals and could have had the tying goal in the waning seconds if not for New York defenseman Ryan Pulock sliding into the crease to come up with a block on defenseman Ryan McDonagh that saved the game from going to overtime.
“That’s not up to our standard,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We played more desperate in the third but that’s what happens when you’re down 3-0. We have to do that starting from the start [of Game 5].”
Even if they do, the Lightning know the Islanders will attack too, and try to put them on their heels, as they did at points throughout Game 4.
That’s why the series will go at least six games, and why getting away from it for a few hours Sunday matters for what happens Monday.
“You hoped not to have to come back here [Nassau Coliseum] but you sit in the beginning of the series and say, ‘Hey, this might be a long series,’ ” coach Jon Cooper said. “Well, it is going to be a long series so get your rest and get ready for tomorrow.”