TAMPA — The Lightning endured so much drama this season, coach Jon Cooper doesn't even consider falling behind 1-0 in Tampa Bay's playoff series against Montreal an adverse situation.
“Adversity, that word went out the door some time ago with our team,'' Cooper said. “We don't even use it anymore because it's the norm. It's like, 'Welcome to Tuesday.' ''
The day after the Game 1 overtime loss was actually Thursday, but no matter what day it is on the calendar, the Lightning need to be better in tonight's Game 2 — and they know it.
After a poor performance in the opener, Tampa Bay can ill-afford to head to Montreal stuck in an 0-2 hole. The odds are already stacked against the Lightning, as teams that win the first game of a best-of-seven series have an all-time record of 417-190, a winning percentage of 68.7.
Those odds drop dramatically if a team loses the first two games of a series, with just 37 of 291 teams (12.7 percent) coming back from an 0-2 deficit to win a seven-game series.
Though Tampa Bay has overcome plenty of odds stacked against it and been counted down and out many times, that sort of situation might be too much to overcome.
“We've been through a lot of adversity throughout the season, so why wouldn't we deal with some adversity in the playoffs,'' alternate captain Nate Thompson said. “You lose Game 1 at home and you know that you can say our backs are against the wall because you don't want to be down 0-2 heading to Montreal.''
But because Tampa Bay faced so much this season — the loss of Steven Stamkos for 45 games to a broken leg, having as many as 11 rookies in the lineup at various points, the trade of captain Marty St. Louis, seeing No. 1 goaltender Ben Bishop lost to injury a week before the playoffs — and came through it all to earn home-ice advantage in the opening round of the postseason, the Lightning seem built to stare the situation down without blinking.
“We are a pretty resilient group. I think we are going to be fine,'' defenseman and alternate captain Eric Brewer said. “There are certainly a few things that we want to shore up, but we are not going to beat the last game into a microdot, it's not going to do us any favors. We will take what we know and live with it.''
What Tampa Bay knows is it nearly stole a game despite spending too much time in its own end, turning over pucks with regularity and not making Montreal play enough defense. All three factors were the opposite of what took place during the four-game season series, with the Lightning winning three.
“I was extremely disappointed in the way we played,'' Cooper said. “Montreal was the far superior team (Wednesday) night. I don't consider them a far superior team than we are, I think we are extremely close, but in the 78 minutes that we played, they were the better team. In my head, I didn't see it that way until I watched the tape. Now, in saying that, I believe a lot of their success came all off our colossal errors, and that can't happen in playoff time.''
Nerves might have factored into some of those errors, as eight Lightning players made their Stanley Cup playoff debuts. After all the talk of how much different the playoffs are, how the spotlight burns brighter, the hits hurt a little more and the crowd cheers a little louder, with one game in the rear-view mirror, the anticipation turns into expectation following that first taste of the experience.
“Yes, the crowd is louder, it's a different atmosphere, 200 media people are around — so it is a different atmosphere, but it's still the same game that we played (during the regular season),” Stamkos said. “So, hopefully the guys can realize that, and that's the message that they have been told. I would expect those guys, and just us as a collective group, to be in a better state of mind heading into Game 2.''