Tampa Bay Lightning once again bounce back from a post-season loss using inner anger

By John Chidley-Hill

The Tampa Bay Lightning harnessed their inner anger on Wednesday night, a skill that has helped them win back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Victor Hedman scored and added three assists as Tampa downed the Maple Leafs 5-3 to tie their first-round playoff series 1-1. The victory came after Toronto shut out the Lightning 5-0 in Game 1 on Monday, continuing the Lightning’s streak of never losing twice in a row in the past two post-seasons.

Head coach Jon Cooper said it’s all about taking offence to those losses.

“That’s what we have to do. You have to make it personal. You have to do whatever you do to create an anger inside and a want,” he said. “Whether your want is to win or your want is not to lose, either one.”

Forward Brayden Point had a power-play goal in Wednesday’s victory and said that he and his teammates were fuelled by the lopsided loss in Game 1.

“I think we got our show run in the first one, so we wanted to have a better night,” said Point. “We have a good leadership group that gets us ready for games, for bounceback games, and I think we’re just a little bit more ready.”

Tampa beat the Dallas Stars in six games to win the Cup in 2020, then dispatched the Montreal Canadiens in five for the NHL championship in 2021. The Lightning lost 14 times in those playoffs, and won the next game every time.

Cooper said his team drew on that experience Wednesday to once again rebound after a loss.

“Let’s think about that: what does it take to bounce back like that? It takes character,” said Cooper. “You have to have that in your room.”

Cooper gave credit to the veterans on the Lightning’s roster for creating the belief that Tampa could come out and win Game 2 on the road after the shutout loss.

“You’ve got a really good chance of winning the Stanley Cup if you can do that,” joked Cooper. “At least two in a row.”

The Maple Leafs weren’t surprised that there would be a lot of pushback from their first-round opponents in Game 2.

“Everyone was saying we knew they’re gonna be a lot better and they came out and pushed,” said Toronto forward Mitch Marner. “I thought we did a good job of when we were 5 on 5 of weathering the storm and pushing back as well.”

Several Lightning players said they were “ticked off” after Monday’s loss. Point, Victor Hedman, and Brandon Hagel all said that anger fuelled them in Game 2.

“I think anyone, any competitive hockey player, would be a little ticked off, and want to find a way to get back to where we know how to play,” said Hagel, who had the eventual winner 1:33 into the third period.

Game 3 is at Tampa’s Amalie Arena on Friday.