Members of the Tampa Bay Lightning awoke Thursday with a sense of remorse after being unable to extend a late lead and put away the Chicago Blackhawks in the opener of the Stanley Cup Final.
"You should be a little angry ... that we had a chance to take Game 1," center Brian Boyle said of Wednesday's game. "It's just Game 1, but it was a good opportunity for us to start the series the way we wanted to.
"We need to understand we've got to play our system and play it aggressively, knowing that you can't wake up in the morning having some regrets that we were a little too passive."
Members of the Blackhawks awoke after their 2-1 comeback victory with reinforced confidence, having proved again that even when they don't play their best they can win. Why? Because they've become so comfortable in pressure situations during a stretch in which they've reached the Final three times in six seasons and already won it twice.
Center Antoine Vermette, who scored the winner Wednesday, and rookie winger Teuvo Teravainen, who brought Chicago even at 1-1 at 13 minutes 28 seconds of the third period and set up Vermette's goal 1:58 later, didn't start the season with the Blackhawks. But both quickly learned the immeasurable value of their teammates' vast experience, which gives Chicago the ability to thrive under the unforgiving tension of postseason play.
"The experience factor is something from the outside you can imagine being there. But the way the guys are professional approaching every situation, it speaks for itself," said Vermette, who was acquired in a trade with Arizona on Feb. 28. "I think you can tell they've been through some experience."
Teravainen, who began the season with Rockford (Ill.) of the American Hockey League, is benefiting from seeing his teammates remain calm and find ways to adapt no matter what they face.
"I think there's always a feeling in our locker room when we're down goal a couple goals that we might come back," Teravainen said. "It's just a great thing to have."
There's no way to buy experience; you have to go through the challenges and triumphs to gain the poise and resilience the Blackhawks have shown every round. It's a key reason they overcame a slow start and won Wednesday and the Lightning — which started strong but strayed from its successful formula when it sat back too much in the third period — had so many regrets.
"I think there's that confidence in our group that we can find ways to come back if we're not in an ideal situation in a game or a series," Toews said Thursday, a rest day for both teams.
Seven Blackhawks are playing in their third Final with the team: Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. Center Brad Richards is in his third Final with his third team, having been there with Tampa Bay in 2004 and the New York Rangers last year. Overall, the Blackhawks have 19 players with Final experience, including 14 from their 2013 championship team.
The Lightning has six players with Final experience but only one has his name on the Cup — Valtteri Filppula with Detroit in 2008. Anton Stralman and Boyle played for the Rangers in their loss to the Kings last season, Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn were with Philadelphia in the Flyers' 2010 loss to the Blackhawks, and Brenden Morrow played for runner-up Dallas against New Jersey as a rookie in 2000.
Steven Stamkos said he and his Lightning teammates were "trying to do the right thing" Wednesday but for some reason let up offensively while trying to protect their 1-0 lead.
"We gave a team that is very skilled and talented, knows what to do in those situations, we gave them the puck. They had it too much. The rest is history after that," Stamkos said. "We learned our lesson pretty quick here."
They'll have to put all of their lessons to use in Game 2 on Saturday at Amalie Arena, or risk going to Chicago in a deep hole.
"This will be a different test for our group," Stamkos said. "I think we look at all the positives in that game. There was a lot. I know that was the first game for a lot of us in the Final but I don't think that's an excuse for our group anymore. We got that out of the way."