Thursday, May 27, 2004
Bolts: Only adjustment is mindset
By Sherry Skalko ESPN.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- Was it the physical toll or the basking in the glow of their seven-game series win over the Philadelphia Flyers? Was it a lack of familiarity with the Calgary Flames? Was it the creature comforts of home?
The Tampa Bay Lightning don't know what caused it, but they do know they weren't themselves during their 4-1 loss to the Flames in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Tuesday.
Despite the lopsided loss, however, Lightning coach John Tortorella won't be making any changes to his game plan for tonight's Game 2 (ESPN, 8 ET).
"The most important thing for us is right now in recognizing that this is mindset. It's not about X's and O's. It's not about major adjustments," Tortorella said. "The major adjustment we have to make is realize who we are playing, respect who we are playing and change our mindset because our mindset was not right for Game 1."
The Lightning's boundless energy and dangerous transition game, which have been their staples throughout the playoffs, were nonexistent.
After Martin Gelinas got the Flames on the board first early in the first period with a goal that is best described as a lucky bounce, the Lightning continued their hesitant and somewhat jittery play. In the past, they've responded with the type of hard work that Gelinas had used to get to the front of the Lightning net in the first place.
The Lightning did manage to put together a dominant power play in the second period, but yet another lucky bounce -- a pass hopping over the stick of forward Fredrik Modin -- enabled Flames captain Jarome Iginla to break in alone on goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. An opportunistic second-effort by Iginla gave the Flames a 2-0 lead. Center Stephane Yelle scored 2:47 later, giving the Flames a 3-0 lead.
By the time the Lightning started finding their game in the third period, it was too late. The Flames, who aren't characterized as a trapping team but employ the tactic depending on where the puck is on the ice, allowed only a goal by Lightning winger Martin St. Louis.
On the positive side, captain Dave Andreychuk said, the Lightning had their chances, especially in the first period. The start of Game 2 will be pivotal.
"We would like to get the momentum, get the crowd on our side," Andreychuk said. "We have done very well when we have scored first, also. I guess that's important, in the rest of this series, is try to get the momentum early."
Still, it won't be easy. Though the Lightning have scored the first goal of the game 12 times in this post season, and sport 10-2 record when they do, the Flames have allowed only four first-period goals this postseason.
They're also accustomed to desperate home teams, bent on evening the score in Game 2 and preventing them from taking a 2-0 lead back to Calgary. After losing to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, the Flames beat the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks in the opening game of those series. They lost to the Red Wings in Game 2, but took a 2-0 lead over the Sharks.
"There is a little familiarity with the situation that we're in, but I think that also breeds the thought process that we have to make sure we're ready because we know we're going to face a better effort and a better team," Flames defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "We know how big the game is. There is a huge difference between 2-0 and 1-1. And we have to make sure we're ready to push for that."
But don't expect the Flames to change anything either, whether it be in their game plan or their mental approach. They're a team intent on sticking with the style that carried them to the Stanley Cup finals and they're mindful of their opponent and the process it takes to win a best-of-seven series.
"We aren't going to come out as an over confident bunch, thinking it's an easy series now," Flames defenseman Andrew Ference said. "We're going to come out just as fired up, if not more, because we know with each win it gets harder and harder.
"Obviously, the opponent is a big part of that because they want to win the Cup just as bad as us."
Sherry Skalko is the NHL editor for ESPN.com.