TAMPA, Fla. — After his team won its sixth straight Game 2 in a playoff series, dating to last season — a resounding 4-1 defeat of the Islanders on Saturday — Lightning coach Jon Cooper was asked if there is any secret to that success.
“If we could just turn that into Game 1s,” Cooper said after goalie Ben Bishop and the Lightning rebounded from a 5-3 loss on Wednesday night to tie the best-of-seven series at a game apiece. “This was one we absolutely needed . . . Now the pressure is on us to go out and win one at Barclays.”
Bishop, a Vezina Trophy finalist, had allowed four goals on 13 shots on Wednesday night. He made 19 saves in Game 2, including 11 of 12 in the first period, when the Islanders had three power plays.
“I don’t change anything, that’s the big thing,” Bishop said. “I come back the same way . . . I thought we played a great third period. We knew they would come with a push.’’
The Lightning allowed the Islanders only three shots in the final 20 minutes, capping an afternoon in which they made adjustments and played with far more speed and cohesiveness. They took 31 shots on Thomas Greiss and improved as time wound down. “As the game went on, it felt like we’d really taken over,” Cooper said. In the end, the Lightning had 59 shot attempts (shots on goal, shots missed and shots blocked); the Islanders only 39.
Rather than sit back in the third to protect a 3-1 lead built on goals by Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Victor Hedman, “we were pushing ahead, and that was huge,” said Johnson, who had an assist on Hedman’s goal in the third and added an empty-netter with 2:18 left.
Cooper returned to the “Triplets” line of Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat and also received a dynamic effort from Drouin, the 21-year-old rookie who deftly eluded the Islanders in the corners and in the neutral zone and emerged with his first goal at 11:55 of the first to provide a 2-0 lead. He had two points in 14:52 of ice time in his seventh career playoff game.
“We use the word slippery,” Cooper said of Drouin, the third overall pick in the 2013 draft, who was suspended for not initially reporting to Syracuse during the season and relented. “Ever go fishing and you try to hold the fish in your hands? He’s so crafty and skilled.”
Johnson called Drouin “a special player. I think he’s getting that confidence . . . He’s a fun guy to watch and going to get better as he goes.”
Drouin, who returned to the Lightning on April 7, was pleased. “Oh, it’s a great feeling, definitely,” he said. “In a game like this where you need the win with your back against the wall, it was a great goal.”
Hedman also had two points, with an assist on Johnson’s opening goal at 6:03, and more importantly, shut down John Tavares, who was pointless in 22:25. With both Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman sidelined, “there’s a lot on his shoulders,” Cooper said. “He went head to head with 91 and played 27 plus minutes.”
Said Hedman: “We played with way more speed. We took advantage of our strengths. We got the puck deep, we got working and created some confusion around the net and we played quick defensively.”
Game 3 on Tuesday night in Brooklyn will be the Lightning’s first playoff game in New York since its Game 7 win at Madison Square Garden last spring. That propelled Tampa Bay into the Stanley Cup Final, where it lost to the Blackhawks. Game 4 is Friday night in Brooklyn.
“That’s one game. We need three more,” Johnson said Saturday. “It’s gonna be loud, going to be hard to play in, but we know what we need to do.”
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