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Lightning bemoans its slow start in Game 1

Head coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay

Head coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning talks to his team during a break in the first period against the New York Rangers during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

On second thought, Jon Cooper wasn't exactly pleased with what his Lightning team did in Game 1. Tampa Bay's play in the 2-1 loss to the Rangers apparently made Cooper a bit queasy.

"You can play the game and you can watch it and say -- you look at the game and not think you played very well, and then you watch the tape and it's actually a little better than you thought. But then there's the times that you think you played OK, and you watch the tape and you want to vomit," Cooper said after his team practiced at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. "And that was a little bit how last night went . . . One team played like they've been there before and the other team played like they hadn't."

Cooper and his players acknowledged right after their loss Saturday afternoon that Tampa Bay's opening period in Game 1 was forgettable, perhaps the result of a team littered with players in their first conference finals. The second and third periods weren't so bad, as Ondrej Palat's power-play goal 6:45 into the third tied the score and the remainder of the third was evenly played.

But Sunday, the tone after practice was one of self-criticism more than feeling pleased at keeping it close.

"I think it was more self-caused," Anton Stralman said. "They're a really good team. When you're not on your game, those teams take advantage of it, simple as that. We gave them too much room. We kind of made them faster than they are, and they're fast to begin with."

Cooper also harped on the Tampa Bay forecheck, which didn't produce much sustained pressure in Game 1. The three straight third-period power plays the Rangers gave the Lightning certainly evened things out, but five-on-five, the Lightning was badly outplayed.

"If you're going to go into zones and be one and done like we were, we have no chance," Cooper said. "So we have to possess the puck more. It's been a big part of the reason why we're here. And if we're not going to do that, it's going to be a long night and a short series."

Notes & quotes: Former Ranger Brian Boyle missed practice after sitting out Game 1 with an undisclosed injury. Cooper offered no update on Boyle, who had played all 13 games through the Lightning's first two rounds.


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