The Tampa Bay Lightning had what they wanted late in Game 4 on Monday; a four-minute power play, their top players on the ice, a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
It just didn’t work out.
The Montreal Canadiens killed defenseman Shea Weber‘s double-minor for high sticking Lightning forward Ondrej Palat at 18:59 of the third period, then cashed in on the momentum when forward Josh Anderson scored at 3:57 of overtime for a 3-2 win.
“We had ample chances to put this one away and we didn’t,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “Eventually if you let a team hang around long enough, they may get you and tonight they did.”
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Instead of sweeping the Canadiens and winning the Stanley Cup at Bell Centre, the Lightning have to try again at home in Game 5 of the best-of-7 series on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Not much changes from their perspective, other than they’re down to three chances to win the Stanley Cup.
“You can’t pick your adversity,” Cooper said. “You hit a little bit of it, and you have to fight your way through it. It’s just something we’re going to have to fight our way through. We can’t hang our hat that we’re going home.
“We’ve been through this before. We’ve had a chance to knock teams out a few times last year and a few times this year. It’s why you go up in series, to give yourself a chance or multiple chances to knock a team out. We just have to regroup and see if we can do it in Game 5.”
The Lightning have responded well in these situations. They haven’t lost back-to-back games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since losing four straight against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 Eastern Conference First Round (14-0).
They had a chance to win the Stanley Cup in Game 5 against the Dallas Stars last season, but Corey Perry scored in double overtime to extend that series. Tampa Bay won Game 6 2-0, playing what Cooper called “a precision game” to lift the Cup.
The Lightning lost Game 5 to the Florida Panthers in the first round this season, only to come back and end the series in Game 6 with a 4-0 win. They lost Game 6 to the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Semifinals but responded with a 1-0 win in Game 7 that Cooper called “clinical.”
“We’ve done a good job of leaving the previous game in the past if we’re coming off a loss,” Tampa Bay forward Barclay Goodrow said. “We have a great leadership group that gets our minds in the right spot. This game is over and done with and we’re moving on to Game 5.”
The Lightning don’t feel they have much to fix in their game. In fact, when asked what they could have done differently Monday, Cooper said, “Probably not hit as many posts as we hit.”
They hit three on shots from forward Brayden Point at 19:35 of the first period, defenseman Victor Hedman at 15:45 of the second period and forward Nikita Kucherov at 17:33 of the third.
“Puck has been going in for us and tonight they didn’t,” Cooper said. “Did I think we generated enough chances to score? I did and they didn’t go in. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes you play pretty good and it’s a break here or a break there that just doesn’t go your way. In the end, they got a break and we couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Even the power play, despite going 0-for-5, had quality zone time and scoring chances. The Lightning had nine shots on goal on the power play, plus the shots from Point and Hedman that hit the post.
“Once we get set up, we had our looks,” Hedman said. “They’re a good [penalty kill]. They’ve been good all season long. That’s one of the big reasons why they’re here. Hockey is one of those sports where sometimes you rely on your PK. They got a four-minute kill, got some momentum and scored right away after. We’ll look at the tape and make sure our power play is going next game.”