The Tampa Bay Lightning called Dominic Moore's game-winner a fluke -- the product of a good bounce -- and otherwise implied that it was an ugly goal. Those were compliments.
"I give credit," coach Jon Cooper said. "They threw it at the net, they had guys buzzing around down there and they got the break . . . It's the playoffs, isn't it? The beauties that you see in the regular season oftentimes don't show up in the playoffs, and that's because of the attention to detail in playing defense, and I think that many times, the goals you're going to see are something like that."
It was a lesson that was repeated over and over in the visitors' locker room after the Rangers' 2-1 win Saturday in the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals: Throw stuff at the net and good stuff happens.
That type of thing was sorely lacking on the Lightning's side of the offense, former Ranger Anton Stralman said, and it's something to which Tampa Bay plans to pay much closer attention for the remainder of the series.
"It's not even a shot," he said of the goal, a "why not?" attempt by Kevin Hayes that bounced off Moore's leg and into the net with 2:25 left in regulation. "It's just a funnel to the net and it bounced in . . . It's the way it goes sometimes. I think we need more of the second- and third-period efforts we had today. We definitely need to move the puck a little bit faster and get in on the forecheck and shoot a lot more pucks.''
The Lightning mustered only 24 shots against Henrik Lundqvist and company, only five in the third period. Its only goal came on a power play as Ondrej Palat scored on a one-timer on a cross from Tyler Johnson 6:45 into the third.
At the time, it looked like a good omen for Tampa Bay. The Lightning was slow to start, and the goal seemed to be a culmination of its continued progress, but in the end, it was no match for the Rangers' recent knack for pulling out late goals in tight games. This was the Rangers' 15th straight one-goal game in the playoffs dating to last season's Stanley Cup Final.
"You have to win those 2-1 games," Steven Stamkos said. "You look at the other dressing room and they've done a ton of that this year, and that's why they're here . . . We gave ourselves a chance. It was a little bit of a fluky goal at the end, but that's what happens when you throw pucks at the net."
Goalie Ben Bishop called it "unfortunate," former Ranger Ryan Callahan said it was "unlucky" and Stralman probably had the best description of all: "It's just life and hockey."
Either way, their point was clear: It may not have been pretty, but in order to advance, the Lightning will need a lot more ugly in its game.