TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Lightning and Maple Leafs have traded wins and losses through five games of this first round series and are now set for an elimination game Thursday night.
“If I’m going to go on being with this group and we’ve all been together a long time, this group has shown the dig the heels into the sand time for them,” said Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper. “So I’m not worried about our urgency or anything like that. What we’ve done though is just we’ve limited — now our margin for error is much less. So now, getting back to it, our attention to detail has got to be there. I’m not worried about our urgency.”
With the Bolts trailing 3-2 in the series, Toronto is just one win away from clinching the series and ending Tampa Bay’s season — and their bid for a third-straight Stanley Cup. The Lightning now have to win two games in a row to advance, starting with game six back in Tampa.
“I think we have a good veteran group,” Lightning forward Pat Maroon said. “Guys are obviously upset we blew a two-nothing lead but listen, we have an opportunity again to go on home ice in front of our fans and win a game here. You can’t really focus on what’s next. Like I always tell the guys — it’s one shift, it’s one game at a time.”
“Just try to do your best. It’s 20 minute periods. Just do your best out there. The only thing you can control is you stepping over the boards and giving it everything you can. We’re still in this thing so obviously the margin of error– it’s gone– but the series isn’t over yet. We still have life. We still have a lot of life. We still have a lot of hockey to be played and guys know that. We’re coming home in front of our fans here and we’re going to give it our best effort.”
Along with the overall effort, Cooper shared two points of emphasis for his team going forward.
“It’s just our attention to detail and our defending,” Cooper said. “I always say this — if you give up two goals or less, you’re giving yourself a really good chance to win. You give up three, the game’s going to be in doubt. Now you’re playing with fire. We’ve scored enough goals to win games. We’re just giving up too much.”
Hand-in-hand with giving-up several unanswered goals, including three in a row in game five, is momentum. It went in favor of the Maple Leafs Tuesday night, and the Lightning know what they have to do to make sure to keep it in their favor Thursday.
“I think it’s sticking with our structure,” Maroon said. “There’s going to be momentum shifts with either a penalty kill or a power play, or vice versa if they’re on the power play or the penalty kill. You’ve just got to control your emotions in the ups and downs throughout the game and I think we’ll be OK. It was a two to nothing lead. We were playing good hockey and just a lot of penalties again [Tuesday] night. We’ve just got to find a way to just stay out of the box here and it’s on both ends right now. I think it’s killed a lot of momentum five on five, especially for us because we’re a good five on five team.”