The Tampa Bay Lightning are approaching Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals in a similar way as the New York Islanders.
Game 5 happened. It was a blowout. Analyze it and move on.
“It’s a big win for us, obviously, but 8-0, 2-1, 3-1, it’s still one game,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said Tuesday. “These are tough games. They’re a great team and for sure we’re going to get their best. We’ve got to raise our game to another level once again.”
The Lightning matched a Tampa Bay record for most goals in a Stanley Cup Playoff game in an 8-0 win Monday. They lead the best-of-7 series 3-2, and a win in Game 6 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS) would put them back in the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight season.
But they’re not fooled into thinking what happened in Game 5 sets the precedent for what will happen in Game 6.
“Sometimes you’re on the other end of that too,” defenseman Luke Schenn said. “Sometimes you lose in overtime and those are more crushing and defeating than the lopsided ones. You’ve got to win four of them, so it doesn’t really matter. Whether you lose you turn the page, or if you win you’ve got to turn the page. Every game has its own storyline going into it.”
Part of the Game 6 storyline for the Lightning is the health of their defensemen.
Erik Cernak didn’t play Monday because of an upper-body injury after skating in warmups. Jan Rutta didn’t play in the third period after he was struck with a high cross-check from Islanders center Mathew Barzal at the end of the second period. Barzal on Tuesday was fined $5,000 by the NHL Department of Player Safety, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he would have an update each player and his potential availability for Game 6 on Wednesday morning.
Schenn replaced Cernak in Game 5. Playing for the first time since Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Second Round against the Carolina Hurricanes on June 3, he scored a goal on two shots and had four hits in 15:36 of ice time, the most he’s played in his seven games this postseason.
“It shows you the depth that we have,” Hedman said. “Luke is the ultimate team guy. He works so hard. When he’s playing, when he’s not playing, he always stays ready for when he’s going to get into the lineup. Yesterday was a great example.”
The Lightning have lost four man-games to injury among their defensemen in 16 playoff games. Besides Cernak in Game 5 against the Islanders, David Savard was out the first three games of the second round against the Hurricanes with an upper-body injury.
They have used seven defensemen in the playoffs.
“The guys were going pretty good there for the last number of games,” Schenn said. “I played the first three against Carolina, and after that everyone was healthy and guys were playing great so obviously you just stay patient, try to work and be supportive of the guys, cheer them on for wins. The longer you go it’s tough to stay healthy every single game for the playoffs.”
However, an 8-0 win allowed the defensemen who typically log heavy minutes, especially when they have to make up for players missing time because of injury, a reprieve.
Hedman played a playoff-low 20:43, including 4:27 in the third period, when the Lightning were down to five defensemen with Rutta out. He’s averaging a team-high 24:33 of ice time per game in the playoffs.
“My body feels fresh,” Hedman said.
Ryan McDonagh played 19:27, also a playoff low. The defenseman is second on the Lightning with 22:46 of ice time per game.
Savard and Mikhail Sergachev picked up additional ice time in the third. Savard played 10:03 and Sergachev skated 9:29.
“Any time at this time of the year you can give the guys a little bit of a break that play strong minutes, you have to,” Cooper said. “It doesn’t come around that often. I don’t anticipate there being a game like last night, but you get a break. On their side they were trying to do the same thing. Both teams probably had a similar thought process in let’s move ahead for Game 6.”