Calgary gains the upper hand with a dominating win in the Stanley Cup opener.
TAMPA - Disappointing not demoralizing. Unfortunate not catastrophic. Those were the sentiments kickin' around the Lightning locker room on Tuesday night after its 4-1 loss to the Flames in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.
Even left wing Dave Andreychuk answered questions with good humor. But that all ended when the talk turned to Thursday's Game 2.
Asked if it is too early in a seven-game series to call it a must-win, Andreychuk said, "No."
The captain let that sink in for a moment before continuing.
"It is a must-win for us," he said. "We don't want to go down oh-and-2. It's not the end of the world, but you probably could see it."
It will be interesting to see how Tampa Bay responds. The team is behind in a series for the first time this postseason, and the players appeared baffled as to why they didn't come out with more hop, especially considering the thunderous blastoff provided by the crowd of 21,674, the second largest ever at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"We just didn't come out as hard as we needed to," defenseman Dan Boyle. "I can't tell you why."
Jitters? Maybe. A letdown from a physical, emotional East final with the Flyers? Perhaps.
Whatever the cause, Andreychuk said, "Our desperation has to get back to where it was last series. This team is not looking for a split. They are looking to win both these games and go back to Calgary 2-0." Martin St. Louis scored on the power play 4:13 into the third period. It was his first goal in six games, but that only made the score 3-1. And whatever momentum Tampa Bay garnered was dampened by three subsequent penalties.
But there were more pressing concerns.
Tampa Bay struggled with its passing for most of the night. Instead of turning to a simpler game, it tried to force its way through Calgary's aggressive forecheck.
Calgary also won the races to the loose pucks and many of the one-on-one battles. The result was Miikka Kiprusoff needed only be solid while making 23 saves.
With 19 shots, it wasn't as if the Flames were overwhelming. But they took advantage of their chances. They also got some bounces. Some were caused by very choppy ice. But as St. Louis said, "Yeah, they got good bounces, but they worked for their bounces."
Bounces that resulted in Martin Gelinas' goal 3:02 into the game. Andrew Ference's shot from the high slot hit Andreychuk, Flames center Craig Conroy, Gelinas, the post and the skate of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin before sliding into the net.
Another bounce sent what seemed to be a perfect pass from Andreychuk over Fredrik Modin's stick. It turned into a short-handed breakaway for Jarome Iginla and a 2-0 Calgary lead with 4:39 left in the second period. Stephane Yelle's goal with 1:52 left after Boyle's turnover in the Lightning zone made it 3-0. But it was Iginla's goal, his playoff-high 11th, that was the backbreaker.
It also highlighted a superb effort by Calgary's penalty killers. Tampa Bay, which scored nine power-play goals against the Flyers, was 1-for-5. "They were aggressive," Modin said. "I felt we didn't have a chance to get up with our power play. We didn't get too much out of it."
"We're trying to skate and trying to create chances and put some pressure on them," Iginla said. "It also was a good break, too."
After Khabibulin stopped Iginla, the puck bounced to Khabibulin's right. Modin, trailing the play, went around the net to Khabibulin's left. That gave Iginla a chance to retrieve the puck and shoot again at the fallen goaltender.
"I didn't see where it was," Modin said. "I just went to the other side."
In Game 2, Tampa Bay must find another level. But a must-win?
"I think all games are must-wins," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "If you don't approach it that way, I think you're approaching it wrong."
For the Lightning, that would be catastrophic.