Tampa Bay Lightning say team ‘lost game, not series’ after Game 2 drubbing

DENVER — The Tampa Bay Lightning said their confidence hasn’t been shaken despite a 7-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night, the most lopsided playoff defeat in franchise history.

“At the end of day, we lost the game, not the series,” said defenseman Victor Hedman.

The Lightning’s other biggest playoff blowout losses were by five goals. Colorado’s 7-0 win is tied for the second largest margin of victory in a Stanley Cup Final shutout win in NHL history.

“Am I shocked that we lost seven-zip? I mean, I don’t think we saw that coming,” said center Steven Stamkos.

The Lighting captain said the margin of defeat is “totally not acceptable, especially at this time of year,” and acknowledged that some might have the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions counted out in the series because of it.

“Listen, people are gonna be watching this game tonight and probably think the series is over. But we’re a very resilient group,” he said. “We were in this position last round. So whether it’s 1-0 or 7-0 or 10-0, it’s a loss in the playoffs. We’ve got to man up as a team. Let’s get back home in front of our fans, and let’s see what we’re made of.”

The Lightning were embarrassed in Game 2, and not just in the final margin of defeat. They vowed to have a stronger start than in Game 1, when the Avalanche built a 2-0 lead by the 9:23 mark of the first period. Instead, the Lightning trailed the Avalanche 3-0 just 13:52 into Game 2.

That began with a hooking penalty on defenseman Ryan McDonagh just 1:01 into the game that Colorado turned into a Valeri Nichushkin power-play goal for the 1-0 lead.

“It was an undisciplined penalty by me. To give a team a power play in the first minute is never a good recipe,” said McDonagh. “We lost our coverage and gave them odd-man looks. Any time you do that, you’re flirting with disaster and danger. It was a bad time to have a bad start.”

The Lightning vowed to have a stronger Game 2, saying that had devised ways to slow down the Avalanche’s fleet skaters and turn down their offensive pressure. They did neither.

“We have a game plan and it’s trying to neutralize their speed and their forecheck. And we’ve gotten away from it a little bit at times and it cost us,” said Stamkos. “It takes a great team to realize the mistakes that we’ve made. And I have full confidence in this group that we’ll have a much better effort.”

The Avalanche had a 60-28 shot attempt advantage in Game 2, with the Lightning managing just 16 shots on goal against goalie Darcey Kuemper.

“As soon as we start turning the puck over and giving them chances that’s when the game kind of swayed. We have to figure out a way to get momentum, get shots on net. Not enough shots tonight. We can’t score if you’re not getting any shots,” said forward Nick Paul.

The Lightning had been one of the best teams in the NHL at making Game 2 adjustments. They were 9-2 in the second games of series, allowing just 1.91 goals against per game since 2020. A big reason for that was goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had a .938 save percentage in those games. Vasilevskiy gave up all seven goals in Game 2 on 30 shots. But coach Jon Cooper said he never considered pulling his star goalie.

“Listen, this is the playoffs and we’re here to win hockey games. Vasy gives us the best chance to win a hockey game and he’s our guy,” said Cooper. “He’s the best goalie in the world and we win together, and we lose together. Even I did, I don’t think he would’ve come out.”

The Lightning skaters said they simply didn’t play well enough in front of Vasilevskiy.

“We left him out to dry tonight. He’s been our backbone for years and years and years. We owe it to him to have a better game next game. By no means is this on him tonight,” said Stamkos.

The series shifts to Tampa for Game 3 on Monday night. The Lightning were also down 2-0 to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, before roaring back with four straight wins. Cooper has said he saw signs that the team was turning the corner during Game 2 on the road. But Cooper didn’t see enough pushback from his team in Game 2 against the Avalanche, which surprised him.

“The game got away from us early and we have shown a propensity to push back for years. Tonight, we didn’t. If this becomes a common theme in this series, it will probably be a short one,” he said. “I never doubt the guys in the room. Does it suck losing a game like that? For sure. We’re not used to it. It doesn’t really happen to us. But is it going to happen at times? Yeah, it is. You’re just hoping it doesn’t happen in the Stanley Cup Final.”

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