MONTREAL — Staring at a two-games-to-none deficit heading into Game 3 at Bell Centre, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper shuffled the lineup for Sunday.
LW Ondrej Palat, who missed Friday’s Game 2 with an undisclosed upper body injury, returned to the lineup and was back on the top line with C Tyler Johnson and RW Steven Stamkos.
“I had a good practice and I feel good,’’ Palat said.
But as Palat returned to the line, D Sami Salo missed Game 3 with a previously undisclosed upper body injury. Salo took part in Sunday’s morning skate and showed no signs of any injury situation.
In addition to Salo sitting out, the Lightning also scratched rookies Richard Panik and Nikita Kucherov, both of whom played in the first two games of the series. Kucherov scored a goal in Game 1 and has three shots on goal. Panik did not pick up a point and was a minus-2 in the first two games with four shots on goal.
Both Tom Pyatt and B.J. Crombeen made their series debuts, with Pyatt bring 25 games of playoff experience under his belt during his time playing with Montreal that included a run to the 2010 Eastern Conference Final with the Canadiens. Pyatt missed two months during the regular season after breaking his collar bone on October 8 and was in and out of the lineup throughout most of the season. But in the final 12 games Pyatt was in the lineup, Tampa Bay had an 8-0-4 record.
Mark Barberio also made his series debut for the Lightning.
One change that was never contemplated came in net.
The question as to who might start in goal for Tampa Bay in Game 3 came when Anders Lindback was pulled in the third period of Game 2 in favor of rookie Kristers Gudlevskis. Though Cooper did not state that Lindback - who was the first goaltender off the ice, which generally dictates who starts that night - would be back in net for Sunday, he did his best to diffuse any potential controversy.
“I will tell you now and I said it in Tampa there is no goaltending controversy,’’ Cooper said. “I’ve never thought about it. To me that’s never crossed my mind.’’
Lindback was spectacular in the first period, making 12 saves while keeping the Lightning in the game, stopping three odd-man rushes and a wide open shot from the slot late in the first period to recover from allowing a Rene Bourque 11 seconds into the game.
Playing at home
For LW Alex Killorn and Barberio, getting to play playoff games in front of hometown family and friends is a special opportunity.
“It just brings back memories of me coming here with my dad when I was a kid,’’ said Barberio, who grew up in Kirkland about 25 minutes outside Montreal. “Whenever we could get tickets, it was always really special.”
Killorn grew up in Beaconsfield, which is 20 minutes west of Montreal, but his parents and sister were not at Sunday’s game, instead they were on a pre planned trip to California. But that didn’t take away from the chance for Killorn to play in the Bell Centre.
“I grew up watching games here. It’s a crazy atmosphere,’’ he said. “It is exciting to come in here and play. Playoffs especially. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
The pregame projection on the ice at Bell Centre is among the best in the league and the atmosphere from the crowd adds up to an electric beginning to the game.
“There is something about coming to Montreal and being in this arena and how they run the presentation before the game to when you are on the ice to the atmosphere they hit a homerun,’’ Cooper said. “Whatever Montreal has done they hit a homerun for the fan experience and I’m sure it’s a treasure to play here.’’
Kunyk in the middle
The cramped visitor’s locker room inside Bell Centre does not have enough locker stalls to accommodate the 27 players the Lightning have dressed for practice. So Cody Kunyk, signed as a free agent out of the University of Alaska-Faribanks in April, had to remove his gear at a cushioned set in the middle of the locker room after the morning skate.
“It’s a good spot, I get a good view of everything,’’ Kunyk joked.