The Tampa Bay Lightning need to win a game following a loss to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
That is nothing new for them heading into Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals at home against the New York Islanders on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Following a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 6 at the Islanders on Wednesday, the Lightning will take the ice having not lost consecutive games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2019, going 13-0, the longest such run in NHL history.
The difference now is this is the first time they’ll face elimination in a game following a defeat.
“I love the way our team has responded in the playoffs after losses, but you can’t hang your hat on that and say, ‘Well, we haven’t lost the last two years after a loss, or we won every game after a loss in the last two years, so we’re going to win,’ ” Cooper said Thursday morning before the Lightning flew home to Tampa, Florida. “It’s a faulty mindset.
“You can plug your players with cliches and pump them up all these different ways, but for our group, who has been down this road before, I’m so confident in just the way that they prepare, the way they play, their battle for each other. They really are a team that plays for each other.
“Really, look at these special moments and say, ‘How often are we going to get these? Embrace them.’ That’s what we’re trying to do. Yes, we love the stat, it shows the guys dig their heels in in these situations, but we still have to go out there and play the game.”
Tampa Bay may have to play it without Nikita Kucherov, the NHL leading scorer in the playoffs with 27 points (five goals, 22 assists) in 17 games.
The forward left Game 6 with an undisclosed injury 2:22 into the first period and didn’t return. The Lightning have not provided an update on Kucherov’s status.
“Obviously, we’re hoping he plays,” Tampa Bay forward Barclay Goodrow said, “but if he doesn’t it’s going to take a little bit more from everyone in the lineup to try to replace a guy like that.”
Goodrow said by Thursday morning the Lightning had already moved past Game 6, when they lost despite taking a 2-0 lead in the second period and holding a 2-1 advantage midway through the third.
“After the game ended last night we were past it, we were over it, we were looking forward to Game 7,” he said. “When there are two good teams going at it sometimes you need seven games. We’re on to tomorrow and we’re looking forward to it.”
Goodrow was in this exact situation two years ago with the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Second Round. They had a chance to eliminate the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6, but lost in overtime before coming back to win Game 7.
“You just need to trust the system, trust the game plan that has put you in situations to win all year,” Goodrow said. “When it comes down to Game 7, one game, winner take all, it’s about being on top of things, all the details, everything like that. It’s going to be fun. I know we’re looking forward to going back home and getting the job done there.”
Three seasons ago, many of the players who are still with Tampa Bay were saying the same thing following a 3-0 loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at the Washington Capitals.
They were going home for Game 7, a second opportunity to win the series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final staring them in the face. Like he is now with the Islanders, Barry Trotz was coaching against the Lightning in that series.
Game 7 wasn’t close. The Capitals won 4-0.
“You have to understand how hard it is and how hard you have to play,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “The end goal in sight is what both teams are striving for and it’s going to come down to who wants it more.”
The Lightning have enjoyed great success in such situations, especially in a game following a loss.
One more time and they’ll be in the Stanley Cup Final again.
“I have great confidence in our group,” Cooper said. “Can’t guarantee the result, but I know we’re going to show up.”