BRANDON, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Lightning’s first playoff win in four years restored some of the confidence they will need to have continued success against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Their 5-1 victory Friday night evened the first-round series at a game apiece. The best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final matchup shifts to Tampa for Game 3 on Monday night.
Neither team practiced Saturday, although Penguins coach Dan Bylsma spent part of the day watching video and analyzing how Tampa Bay was able to get on track after being shut down by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in a 3-0 series-opening loss.
“Playoff series take on a ride of emotions. They came back and answered in Game 2,” Bylsma said in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins will work out Sunday before flying to Florida.
“They are going home … and we have to re-gather ourselves, get back and go in there and understand how important it is to play our very best game and get a win in Tampa Bay. They have to do the same thing and get ready for Game 3.”
In other words, neither team can afford to dwell on what’s happened so far, a mindset that served the fifth-seeded Lightning well after being frustrated by Fleury’s acrobatic 32-save performance in the opener.
Defenceman Eric Brewer set the tone, scoring on the Lightning’s first shot of game. Vincent Lecavalier and Nate Thompson also scored during a three-goal opening period.
“At playoff time you’ve got to act like you have amnesia,” said goalie Dwayne Roloson, who made 14 of his 35 stops in the final period. “You’ve got to forget what happened in the past and focus on the now.”
The loss stopped the five-game winning streak the fourth-seeded Penguins had dating to the final week of the regular season.
To regain the edge against Tampa Bay, as well as have any realistic chance of make a run deep into the playoffs without injured star Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh almost certainly will have to revive its power play.
The Penguins are 0-for-13 in the playoffs and 6-of-79 over the past 25 games.
“We’re not too worried. … We know we’ve got a good team, and we know we’ve got to go there and steal a win and hopefully take two out of there,” forward Arron Asham said. “We have confidence. … We’re confident with everyone; we’ve just got to get back to our game.”
The Penguins felt they helped the Lightning by allowing themselves to be goaded into several costly penalties. Tampa Bay converted 2-of-6 power-play opportunities in Game 2 after going 0-of-1 in the opener.
Bylsma conceded he was a surprised a playoff-savvy veteran team that maintained its composure in Game 1 allowed themselves to become rattled by the Lightning, which is making its first post-season appearance since 2007.
“We took too many penalties and made that a factor in the game,” the Penguins coach said.
“We definitely gave them an opportunity to get to their game,” forward Craig Adams added, “and they did.”
The Lightning, who had a 45-minute team meeting followed by a 45-minute on-ice session following Game 1, cancelled a scheduled workout at its suburban practice facility on Saturday.
Brewer, who had two assists along with early momentum-building goal, said despite being shut out in Game 1, the Lightning did not feel bad about the way it played.
Winning Game 2 only bolstered the confidence they brought into the series.
“There’s a belief in our system here, and I think everyone stuck with it,” Brewer said. “We didn’t really make any major adjustments, didn’t feel we needed to. We just needed to do the things we do a little better.”
The Penguins like their chances winning in Tampa to regain home-ice advantage. Game 4 is Wednesday night at the St. Pete Times, where the Lightning won both regular-season meetings between the teams.
“It’s loud, every building is,” Penguins forward Michael Rupp said. “I don’t think Pittsburgh’s an easy place to come and play either. But we’ve been a pretty solid road team all year. It’s been one of our strengths.”