MONTREAL — The Lightning are staring at a three-games-to-none playoff deficit that looks like a mountain, but they want to turn it into a molehill.
Specifically, Tampa Bay wants to spend all its energy and focus on one task and one game as it heads into Tuesday’s Game 4 looking to avoid a series sweep.
“We realize the situation that we are in and you just have to win one game,’’ Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “Our backs are against the wall, for sure, and I think you’re going to see a good effort from us.
“That’s our motto right now: let’s get one win, let’s go back home and see what happens.’’
What hasn’t happened much in NHL history is a team coming back from down 0-3 to win a series. Only three teams completed that comeback – the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup final against Detroit, the 1975 New York Islanders against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the quarterfinals and the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers in the conference semifinals. The Flyers erased not only an 0-3 series deficit, but were down 3-0 in the first period of Game 7 against Boston.
Current Lightning defenseman Matt Carle was a member of that 2010 Flyers team that eventually lost in the Stanley Cup final to Chicago. In looking for that first win, the Flyers blew a 3-1 lead and lost a 4-3 the lead with 32 seconds left in the third period of Game 4 before winning in overtime, a goal by Simon Gagne set up by Carle.
“You lose three and it seems that the world is collapsing a little bit,’’ Carle said. “To win four straight, now, seems pretty tough. But you get one game, get some momentum going. ... It’s just a game at a time, as long as we can go in this series, that’s what it’ll be.”
That same mentality was in play for Tampa Bay in 2011 when the Lightning fell behind 3-1 to the Penguins in the opening round after losing consecutive games on home ice. The Lightning won 8-2 in Game 5 in Pittsburgh before winning the next two to take the series in seven games.
There are five players still with Tampa Bay from that 2011 team, an experience that can be drawn upon.
“I really do believe that not being able to look past a short period of time is going to be good for us,” defenseman Eric Brewer said. “I’m not saying that we have, but perhaps that can kind of give us a little bit of a close-your-mind thought.’’
A day after controversy from a disallowed goal dominated the latest loss in the series, the Lightning remained upbeat and positive. The confidence the team showed in dealing situations throughout the regular season has not wavered, despite how the series has unfolded in the first three games.
That comes from how Tampa Bay played in Sunday’s 3-2 loss and the belief that the problems ailed them in Games 1 and 2 have been rectified.
“The reality is you can’t win a series in one game, you just can help your cause a little bit,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “And all I know is that I felt we played well enough to win the game (Sunday) night, we just didn’t win. But if we play with the passion and determination that we played with (Sunday) night, I truly believe that there really is not much more wrong that can go against us.
“At some point, karma is going to come around and we just need it for one night and you just have to win one. Then you win that one and everybody is back on a plane (to Tampa) and who knows what happens after that.’’
But that hole remains deep.
“We are in a hole, but it’s not a hole that’s never been climbed out of before,’’ Stamkos said. “So, the motto right now is just take it one game at a time. We have been in different situations and we have found ways to come out on top. That’s what I expect from our group, is to have that same mentality, that same fight, and everyone has counted us out but we are still believing.’’