TAMPA — Down 1-0 in their first-round playoff series against Montreal and with lead G Ben Bishop nowhere near ready to come off the shelf, the Lightning are in a tough enough bind as it is.
Now, it appears leading point producer Ondrej Palat might be forced to sit out Game 2 on Friday with an upper body injury.
Palat, a rookie left wing who led the team with 59 points, has been ailing since he took a hit to the head from Columbus D Jack Johnson during the next-to-last game of the regular season. He played the first two periods of the Lightning’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Canadiens in Game 1 on Wednesday, but missed the third period and overtime sessions and did not practice on Thursday.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Palat does not have a concussion, but has absorbed quite a few “physical hits’’ the past few games. A decision on whether he can play Friday won’t be made until game time.
C Alex Killorn, who had 17 goals and 24 assists during the regular season, replaced Palat on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson late in Game 1 and in practice Thursday.
That trio played rather well late in the series opener, with Killorn scoring one goal off a Johnson feed and Stamkos scoring another off a breakaway feed from Killorn.
“There’s really no time to gain that chemistry,’’ Stamkos said of the challenge facing the unit. “We have to try to find it right away, so it was nice that Killer and I could do that right away.’’
Upon further review
Watching from his usual spot behind the bench, Cooper wasn’t all that disturbed by the Lightning’s play Wednesday. Later, when his viewpoint changed, so did his opinion.
After watching the tape, Cooper was “extremely disappointed” in the team’s play and said a long string of “colossal errors’’ by the Lightning contributed to the loss.
“Every team makes mistakes, but not the number we made, and in the playoffs that can’t happen,’’ Cooper said. “Eventually, when you keep making those mistakes, it’s going to end up in the back of your net.’’
In addition to giveaways in their own end of the ice, Cooper lamented a lack of puck possession in the offensive end, where Tampa struggled to create shots on goal and scoring chances.
“Pick any (Montreal) line and if you make those guys play 25 or 30 seconds of (defense), they’re not going to have too much going the other way,’’ Cooper said. “The problem was, they were doing that to us.
“And a lot of that was based on us - our entries, being one and done in the (offensive) zone, turning the puck over right away. That’s what got us into trouble, so we need to be a little smarter with the puck.’’
The Lightning have 11 players in the playoffs for the first time. Many are leaning on veteran playoff performers such as D Eric Brewer for advice on how to respond to a Game 1 loss.
Brewer’s message: stay focused, but relax.
“You want to keep the room serious, but you also want to keep it light at the same time,’’ Brewer said. “I know that’s a bit of a contradiction, but we don’t want to get too (serious) now. We have to focus on what needs to happen, but you don’t want to grind it to a microdot.’’