Lightning eager to build off ‘good first step’ following Game 1 win

When the final buzzer sounded after the Lightning’s 8-2 Game 1 win, there was no big celebration, only your standard fist-bumps between teammates and stick-taps to congratulate goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Tampa had just sunk the Islanders in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Final in a postseason that’s “Stanley Cup or bust” for the franchise. It was an impressive win; they went nearly 59 minutes without missing the net, tied the team record for goals in a playoff game, and won for their fifth in a row.

But a veteran team like the Lightning know you cannot get too high or low in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and there’s no room for celebration until you’re the ones lifting the Cup. That’s why when head coach Jon Cooper made his way into the dressing room after Game 1, he wasn’t greeted with a boisterous group impressed with their performance.

“What is that, our ninth win in the playoffs?” Cooper said Tuesday. “It was probably the quietest it has been in the room out of our wins. That’s a pretty exciting time to win a game in the playoffs, let alone where we are right now. I think it was a combination of we know the Islanders are going to be better and a combination of I know we can be better and they know we can be better.”

The Islanders learned a hard lesson in Game 1. They got away from the defensive strengths that helped them to this point and shut down the Panthers, Capitals, and Flyers. A team like Tampa cannot be allowed time and space to create chances. The Lightning had a 21-13 even strength shot advantage and capitalized on their opportunities. In Barry Trotz’s eyes, New York was “watching rather than participating.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Look at the space given to Ryan McDonagh on Tampa’s third goal.

“They ended up scoring on almost all their chances,” Trotz said. “If you look at the analytics of the game, it was probably closer than an 8-2 game. It doesn’t feel good when you’re sitting there and the score is 8-2. The only analytics that matters is the scoreboard.”

Fortunately for the Islanders it was just one game. Tampa could have won 100-2 and it only counts as one victory in a best-of-seven series. While Trotz and his staff have pored over video assessing what went wrong, the players can flush that rout out of their systems and focus on Game 2 Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream).

“This team is much better, and I know they’ll respond,” Trotz said. “It was really hard. I’ll be honest, after the game, to try to, we sort of do our evaluations on our team and our individual players, and it was hard because it was such a strange game for everybody involved.”

This is the first time the New York has trailed in a series this postseason. They’ve only lost back-to-back games once before rebounding in Game 7 against the Flyers in the Second Round. The Lightning know they’ll get a better Islanders team in Game 2 and don’t want to lose this momentum.

“It’s really only a statement if you can follow it up in Game 2,” Cooper said. “We come out and lay an egg [Wednesday] night and it’s 1-1, what kind of statement did we make? Well, let’s make a statement and be even better than we were [Monday] night in Game 2 and see where the chips fall. It’s a good first step, but it’s just one little step.”

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 6 New York Islanders (TB leads 1-0)

Series preview
Game 1
: Lightning 8, Islanders 2. (recap)
Game 2: Wednesday, Sept. 9, 8 p.m ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 3:
Friday, Sept. 11, 8 p.m. ET – USA (livestream)
Game 4:
Sunday, Sept. 13, 3 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 5:
Tuesday, Sept. 15, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Game 6:
Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Game 7:
Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Scroll Down For:

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
    2 Comments

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    austonmatthews
    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.