MONTREAL — Rookie C Cedric Paquette sat at his locker stall inside the visiting dressing room at Bell Centre, talking in hushed tones after Tampa Bay’s 4-3 loss to Montreal on Tuesday as the Lightning were swept in the first round.
It was Paquette’s tripping penalty on Francis Bouillon with 2:11 left in regulation that led to the Canadiens’ series-clinching goal with 42.6 seconds left, just the third penalty called all game.
“I felt pretty bad, to be honest,’’ Paquette said. “That’s my bad, I was a little too aggressive and he fell. . . .They didn’t call much in this game, and I did a bad play, but that is just a bad moment.’’
Paquette, called up from the American Hockey League with two games left in the regular season, was also involved in two of the Montreal goals as he was down in the corner for the opening Canadiens’ goal and then lost the puck at the red line to Brian Gionta that led to Montreal’s second goal of the first period. In the four playoff games, the 20-year-old finished with two assists - including the secondary assist on the Lightning’s tying goal in the third period - but was a minus-2 and was responsible for the overtime game-winner for Montreal in Game 1.
“That poor kid gave us everything he had and two of the game winning goals, the poor kid is on the ice for,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s the first guy I’m going to hug in the room because he was absolutely outstanding for us and I hope nobody looks at Cedric Paquette and say that he is the goat because I believe we may not have been in those spots without him. We won every defensive zone faceoff we had, he had a plethora of chances himself, made his linemates better, he punished their team every single time he was on the ice.’’
Paquette ended his first pro season with having more games of Stanley Cup playoff experience (four games) than regular season experience (two). After leading Syracuse in goals during the regular season in the American Hockey League, the rookie showed he might be a regular in the lineup as soon as next season.
“For him to come onto this stage and compete, that kid has fire in the belly there is no doubt about that,’’ Cooper said. “You can’t teach with that kid has and that’s he is determined. He’s passionate and he’s “a gamer’. That kid has it and I’m fairly certain that kid will be in the league for a while.’’
Paquette, one of the few French-speaking players on the Tampa Bay roster, also received plenty of attention from the Montreal media during the series. His rise to the NHL this season, and to finish it appearing in the playoffs with the Lightning was unexpected.
“I don’t know two weeks ago I wouldn’t have known that I would be here and it’s just a dream come true right now,’’ he said. “My style is to just play hard and play the system.’’
Not enough time
For the first time in two weeks, Lightning G Ben Bishop joined his teammates on the ice and took shots during a practice.
Bishop injured his left arm during the first period of a game against Toronto on April 8 and has been unavailable to play in the postseason. Though he was facing shots, including some to his catching hand – the arm that is injured – Bishop was ready for Tuesday’s Game 4 and his absence had a absence was a factor in the series.
Bishop set a franchise record this season with 37 victories and set new single-season franchise records in goals against average (2.23) and save percentage (.924) for a minimum of 30 games played. But he was injured when he went diving out to catch a puck during the first period against Toronto, holding his left arm as he left the ice, which has kept him out of the playoffs.
“Extremely frustrating, you can’t really put it into words,’’ Bishop said of missing the postseason. “It’s been real tough to have to watch.’’
In Bishop’s absence, Anders Lindback played well in spurts including the first period of Game 3 when the game could have turned ugly early, but allowed 14 goals in four games, and was pulled twice, including at the 5:42 mark in the second period on Tuesday after allowing three goals on 20 shots. In the four starts, Lindback finished the postseason with an 0-3 record, 3.91 goals against average and .881 save percentage.
Keeping it loose
Cooper received a bit of criticism from some members of the TSN television crew for his impromptu crashing of a media session with Steven Stamkos on Monday, even being prompted by a TSN reporter to “ask’’ a question of the Lightning captain.
During a TSN telecast, some analysts described the moment as “awkward’’ or felt it was a “nervous’’ reaction to being down 0-3 in the series heading into Game 4. Cooper was asked about the situation on Tuesday.
“That’s probably the fourth time that I’ve done that this year,’’ Cooper said. “These guys are focused at the task at hand, but if you can’t put a little humor into life ... seriously who are we? We are humans and our group has had fun, so I’m pretty sure that they weren’t even paying attention to that.’’
RW Ryan Callahan has found the transition relatively seamless from his days as captain for the New York Rangers into a completely new situation where he was the new kid on the block.
“I didn’t come in with too many expectations with this my first time being traded, I didn’t really know what to think coming into a new group,’’ he said. “But I guess my biggest surprise or what I’m happy about is how well I’ve got accepted here and how good the guys are in this room.’’
Callahan has learned a lot about his new group of teammates, as well, since joining the team on March 5.
“You learn a lot over the course, just about the personality, how talented we are and how much skill we have and when we apply it how good we can be,’’ Callahan said. “Then in the room I think the resilience of this group, we fought hard to get home ice advantage and not too many people thought we were going to get that, and we go through a stretch where we gain a point and 11 straight games.’’
Callahan is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He scored six goals and finished with 11 points in 20 regular season games with the Lightning, but did not pick up a point in the playoff series against Montreal
Nuts and Bolts
D Radko Gudas (lower body) sat out Tuesday’s game while D Sami Salo (upper body/wrist) missed his second consecutive game in the series. ... D Keith Aulie became the 11th different Lightning player to make their Stanley Cup Playoff debut in the series. ... The Lightning also scratched C Tom Pyatt, RW Richard Panik and RW Nikita Kucherov.