Kukla's Korner

Win or Lose, Lightning Need to Build Some Momentum in Game Two

The mantra of a club that falls down 1-0 in any playoff series is often a reminder that one loss is just that and nothing more. With that in mind, the Tampa Bay Lightning will look to even things up tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh in game two of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Penguins.

To do so, the Bolts will have to cut down on the number of power play opportunities afforded the other side, firm up on defensive positioning in their own end and, oh yeah, put at least one puck past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the Pittsburgh crease.

But before returning home to Tampa for games three and four, while a win tonight is undoubtedly the best-bet scenario, more than anything, the Lightning need to achieve some measurable level of success on the road, if they’re going to have any real shot at advancing into the next round.

In retrospect, the positives from game one start with the shaking of any nerves for some of the more playoff-inexperienced players on the club. Steven Stamkos told the St. Petersburg Times that game one taught him the important lesson of having to raise the compete level far higher than that of any regular season battle. A fine message to take into game two, sure, but Stamkos and others better be quick learners because there is a bit of a time constraint on taking care of business here in the series.

That business, regardless of tonight’s outcome, will involve a change of venue next week, and building some kind of momentum before the Bolts become the home squad is paramount to series success.

Pittsburgh took advantage of playing at home in game one, feeding off of crowd energy and they’ll no doubt look to do the same tonight. But the Lightning get their chance at just that come Monday, in front of what will surely be rabid bunch at the St. Pete Times Forum, hungry for their first playoff action in four full years. Point is, in theory, by winning in game one, the Penguins are half way to what they’re expected to do –win at home. And while Tampa Bay did muster several quality scoring chances in game one, amid a handful of other positives that get lost in defeat, largely, getting blanked as an end result leaves them little of which to be proud.

Before thinking about anything larger that can go their way, the Bolts need to score in game two – and probably a few times – to get back some swagger before heading home.

At that point, with even a little trace of momentum in their corner, evening up the series (or better) is just a matter of winning a pair of home games, something the Lightning were quite adept at doing all year long.

One-up the goal of actual goal-scoring and steal game two? Well, the argument could be made that the Lightning would then be in the proverbial driver’s seat.

But before we get all kinds of ahead of ourselves, again, Tampa Bay needs to find a way to beat Fleury before they can beat the Penguins.

Sounds snooty to even point out something so elementary but, come playoff-time, the recipe for success isn’t exactly rocket science. Execution, on the other hand…

The bottom line is this: You can’t call anything a must-win until it is actually just that – win or go home. Tonight’s game is immeasurably important for the Bolts but the only must about game two is the establishment of something – anything – on which Tampa Bay can build upon.

That begins and ends with goal-scoring.

As Fleury’s efforts in game one dictated, of course, that’s far easier said than done.

***

Look for more collaboration between myself and FromThePoint.com’s Brian Metzer as early as postgame tonight. At worst, we’ll have some opposing viewpoints on the events of game two and a look at the games ahead up and running in the morning.

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

Filed in: Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

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