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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Time for Bolts to show more resiliency

TAMPA — Forget the playoff beards. Wednesday night, Game 1 at the Forum, was hairy all by itself.

The Montreal Canadiens, with history and legends and bears, oh, my, tangled with Jon Cooper's bend-but-don't-break bunch.

Into overtime.

Wild, wild, wilder.

And then it was done.

The Lightning broke.

The Lightning are down.

And they deserve to be.

Canadiens, 5-4.

And now a few facts from Bolts captain Steve Stamkos, voted second star of the game for his two goals. No. 1 star went to the guy who actually won this thing: Montreal's Dale Weise, who scored with 1:52 left in the first OT.

“Any shot has a chance in overtime,” Stamkos said. “It was a back-and-forth game. But we can't expect to win a playoff game when we give up five goals.”


Anybody know what happened to that tight, low-scoring series?

Anders Lindback, in his first playoff start, seemed to awaken from his dream sequence of last week. Ben Bishop's replacement let in five goals, two lousy ones. Thirty-nine saves or no, five goals allowed was no way for Lindback to begin this playoff series. I see a nightmare coming on.

I still say he didn't cost his team the game.

All this on a night when all-world Carey Price was shaky in regulation, highly beatable, letting in four goals on just 16 shots through three periods. Price was all but begging to lose.

But the team in front of Lindback looked far too ragged too many times, with so many mistakes — blue-line turnovers included — that I lost count. Montreal took the game to the Lightning.

Funny, the Bolts absolutely looked like a team that had lots of guys playing their first Stanley Cup playoff game. Weise was all alone out front when he scored the winner. Another blown assignment.

A blown night.

“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Cooper said. “We did it on the winning goal and countless other times tonight.”

Twice the Lightning came from a goal down in the third period — Alex Killorn, a slapper off a turnover forced by Tyler Johnson, then the one that made it 4-4, Stamkos on a beautiful feed from Killorn for his second of the night. Stamkos' first goal was a thing of beauty, an end-to-end rush finished by a wrister past Price. Yes, there was beauty.

But there was ugly, too.

In so many ways, this is typical Lightning.

When these guys are flying right, they can beat anyone outside the Boston area code.

When they're not, when they're falling all over themselves, they're awful.

There's such a thin margin for error for this bunch. Throw in the thin margin for everyone in the playoffs. It bit the Lightning in Game 1.

They can't win this series playing like they did Wednesday. I'm not sure they can even win a game.

They were lucky to be in this one. I mean, outshot 35-16 through three periods and you're tied going to overtime?

That said, you have to win it. The Lightning didn't.

Do you really expect Price to play this loose every night?

Lindback, maybe.

Price battened it down with big OT saves, two on Killorn, one on Nate Thompson, one on Teddy Purcell.

Yes, the Lightning fight. It's a given at this point, 83 games in. Lindback clung to this tie once Stamkos forged it, making some big saves, even with the Canadiens buzzing his net.

When Ondrej Palat, the Bolts' leading scorer this season, left with an injury after one shift in the third period, it was Killorn who replaced him on the first line and delivered.

Montreal delivered last. Weise, alone near Lindback, a Danny Briere pass from behind the net. Goal. Game.

Maybe the Bolts shouldn't have even been in this one. It was still a missed chance. And there goes home ice.

It's resiliency time, guys. Again.

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