Lightning coach satisfied with Game 1 performance despite loss

Lightning coach satisfied with Game 1 performance despite loss
Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya battles Lightning centerSteven Stamkos for the puck during the second period of Game 1. (Mike Carlson / Getty Images)

Upon further review, Lightning Coach Jon Cooper still thinks his team played well in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, despite its 2-1 loss Wednesday to the Chicago Blackhawks.

"We've had these discussions before where I've watched the video, thought we were OK, then watched it and we weren't very good. A little bit of the opposite on this one," he said during an off-day news conference Thursday.


"Video was pretty much the way we saw it. I thought we did a really good job. I can't sit up here and say, 'Oh, Chicago outplayed us.' Did they deserve to win? I think it was a pretty even game."

The difference, he said, was that his team couldn't expand the 1-0 lead it carried past the midway point of the third period.

"We just couldn't get that second one," Cooper said. "I felt if we got that second one, it would have put them away. We didn't. We let them hang around. It burned us.

"Watching the video didn't change it. If we continue to play the way we did, we're going to be OK."

He also said he didn't think his team was overwhelmed by facing the Blackhawks, who are in the Final for the third time in six seasons and are followed by an enormous fan base.

"We just played Mike Babcock and the storied Detroit Red Wings. We just played the Montreal Canadiens. Enough said. We just played the New York Rangers and beat them in their building," Cooper said. "We respect everybody, but there's no fear in the room. Especially after playing [Wednesday] night's game, when you're feeling out your opponent a little bit …

"We didn't come here to come second. We came here to win this. We got a taste of who we were playing against. It's probably in our style. This is four series. Third one where we've lost Game 1. We've never made it easy on ourselves. But we came here to win this thing, and that's what we're going to try to do."

Forward Steven Stamkos said he remained upbeat after losing the opener. Game 2 will be played Saturday at Amalie Arena.

"I don't think we planned on losing the first game three out of the four times," he said. "Definitely not something that we've had any issues with. We've bounced back after a tough game. Last game was tough in a way that we played really well and just couldn't get it done. We've had some tough ones where we didn't play well, didn't deserve it, bounced back."

Lineup notes

Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville, who replaced injured left wing Bryan Bickell with Kris Versteeg in Game 1, indicated he will make the same choice for Game 2.

Versteeg, incidentally, has had quite a week. He became a father Monday with the birth of his and wife Brittany's first child, son Jaxson James. Versteeg played nine minutes and 32 seconds Wednesday.

"I liked his game. He had good pace to his game. Good energy," Quenneville said. "Hadn't played in a while, as well. Coming off a couple exciting days….I liked what he did, so good chance he's playing."

Quenneville also said defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk could play in Game 2.

Must-see TV

According to NBC, Wednesday's telecast of Game 1 had a 4.23 metered market rating, up 11% over Game 1 of last year's Final between the Kings and the New York Rangers. The only higher rating for Game 1 of the Cup Final was recorded in 2013, for the series between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins (4.85).

In Chicago, the household rating was 28.0, the third-highest in the city for a Blackhawks game on NBC. The two games with higher ratings were Cup-clinching games in 2010 and 2013. The rating in Tampa was 17.9, the highest in the city for a Lightning game on an NBC network and up 50% over last Friday's Eastern Conference final Game 7 between the Lightning and the Rangers.

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