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Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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For Lightning, winning Game 2 is all that matters

BRANDON – It was the day after. The sky had fallen. The Lightning was under it. Now what will it do about it?

This playoff series began one team short. It is time for the Lightning to wipe the layoff sleepy winkers from its eyes. How many skate blades can you really count on the Boston Bruins losing to make this a series?

Boston's best line – Bergeron, Pastrnak and Pestilence – is roaring. The Lightning's best line, led by Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, has yet to show some fangs.

Forget all the Game 1 chances.

Jon Cooper has.

"You can look at the outshot them, outattempted them, outchanced them, all that stuff," he said. "But what really mattered is they beat us 6-2, and really it was 7-2. They had one taken away on a penalty. So let's call it how it is."

Let's.

Round 1 to Boston. Convincingly.

The Lightning needs answers. Immediately. Monday night. Game 2. Or else.

That is the way the playoffs work. Each win is a burst of light. Each loss is the end of the world. So it is Monday night. Either the Lightning shows up or it gets late early.

It will become pitch black if the Bergeron line runs amok again. That line  produced 11 points in Game 1. The math is not that complicated. Boston just beat Toronto in seven games. In the four Boston wins, its top line tore the Maple Leafs to pieces. In the three Toronto wins, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak went scoreless.

So, how do you stop these clowns?

"I guess the same way they stopped the Stamkos-Kucherov-(J.T.) Miller line," Cooper said. "You got to be hard on it. You have to respect them as a group, but you can't fear them."

Cooper might be one more rough period away from having to jumble his matchups. Brayden Point's line was in over its head in Game 1, but part of that might be its approach, one it needs to change, that this whole Lightning team needs to change.

Stop waiting for the Bruins to do something to you. Do something to them. Make them react to you instead of the other way around. Point and linemates have the talent. Tyler Johnson was a terror in the 2015 playoffs. Make Bergeron's line the one on the run chasing you. See how those three like it. Make that the Lightning's mission Monday night.

"Play hard on them," Cooper said. "At the end of the game, you want their players to say, 'Oh, man. We got to play them again,' and we didn't make them feel like that."

Look, you're not going to win many playoff games giving up six goals. Even if the Lightning had finished some of its chances, what, it loses 6-5 instead? No matter. Time to finish. Time for the stars to be stars.

Victor Hedman should win the Norris Trophy after this season. He had five shots and an assist in Game 1, but it was his first point of the playoffs.

Kucherov dominated the Devils in the opening round, but he needs to shoot more against Boston.

I have no idea how injured Stamkos is at this point – that's maybe his lot in life – but it doesn't matter at the moment. It's Game 2. That is all that matters, that and winning it. It's already that time for the Lightning and its season.

That's life in the playoffs.

The Lightning has to live it Monday night.

Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.

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