The Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves in a position that they have not been in since the 2019 playoff series with Columbus, as they trail the Rangers 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The string is now broken. After 18 consecutive wins after a loss, the Lightning now trails in a series for the first time since 2019.
This team looks nothing like the team that swept the Florida Panthers in the last round of the playoffs. They look more like the Arizona Coyotes.
The Lightning trail the New York Rangers 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals and will have to beat the Rangers four out of the next five games to keep the dream alive of winning a third consecutive Stanley Cup.
I have watched these two games intently as I do every Lightning game. There is nothing I see that gives me great hope they can beat the Rangers in four of the next five games. Including the first two games in this series, the Lightning is 0-4-1 against the Rangers this season.
The Lightning has been behind 0-2 in a series twice in franchise history. The most recent was in 2018 when the Bolts fell behind 0-2 to the Washington Capitals. The Lightning won the next three to go up 3-2 but was then shoutout two consecutive games to lose the series 4-3.
In 2003, the Lightning fell behind 0-2 to the Washington Capitals before rallying to win four straight games and win the series 4-2.
In NHL history, teams that have gone down 0-2 are 7-91 all-time in those series. So the odds are against the Lightning mounting any miraculous comeback in this series.
Not to say it can’t or won’t happen; it’s just the odds are not in the Lightning’s favor.
The Lightning has been outplayed in every aspect of the game. Offense, defense, special teams, goaltending, puck management, you name it, the Rangers have been better in the first two games.
Jon Cooper talked about the poor puck management. “We just turned the puck over too much. That was it. If you’re not going to manage the puck against good hockey teams, you’re just playing with fire. It was egregious what was happening, especially after the first five minutes of the first all the way to halfway through the second. That isn’t the game plan. That isn’t what they’re doing. You’ve got to manage the puck. We just didn’t do it.”
So what do the Lightning need to do to get back in the series and win a game on Sunday?
Watch the tape of the way they played in the final 25 minutes of game two against the Rangers. The Lightning played as well as we have seen them in the postseason. The Bolts outshot the Rangers 21-6, and two of those shots came on a New York power play.
If the Lightning can play a full 60 minutes as they did against New York in the last 25 minutes of game two, they will be difficult to beat.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has to be better. So far in this series, Rangers goalie Igor Shestoryorkin has been the better goalie.
Puck management has to be better, and the team has to cut down on the turnovers. A Nikita Kucherov turnover directly led to the Zibanejad goal that would be the game-winner in the Lightning’s 3-2 loss on Friday Night.
Game three is the most crucial game of the season for the Lightning. We will see a Lightning team that will be the aggressor and takes the play to the Rangers on Sunday afternoon. The Rangers have not seen the best of the Lightning in this series. I think we have seen the best of the Rangers.
The Lightning can and will play better on Sunday afternoon.
The Lighting is 4-1 at home in the playoffs.
—Braydon Point has been ruled out of game three on Sunday.