TAMPA, Fla. – Several Tampa Bay Lightning players fielded the “must-win-Game-2,” question, each reaching the same conclusion.
“There’s no real must-win until you’ve lost three games in a series,” Steven Stamkos said.
The Blackhawks had their answer, too.
“I think we need to play Game 2 like it's a must‑win game,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
You take quotes for what they are, always, but especially in the postseason. The truth of how each team feels about the must-win topic probably lies somewhere in between. But there’s no doubt the Lightning want nothing more than to hit the road, where they’ve been very good, with a 1-1 split at home. And the Blackhawks want nothing more than to head home, where they’ve been very good, with a 2-0 lead from the road.
The Lightning have now started three of their four postseason series in a 0-1 deficit; obviously they did all right in those other two series. Forward Brenden Morrow said after Game 1 that the Lightning can respect the Blackhawks but “you can’t fear them.” Coach Jon Cooper said there’s no danger of that.
“There’s no fear in the room,” Cooper said. “We got a taste of who we were playing against. It’s probably in our style; this is the third [series] where we’ve lost game one. 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.”
On the flip side, the Blackhawks felt like they got away with one on Wednesday night – “I think we know that we didn't play our best game,” Jonathan Toews said. The Blackhawks were flat-footed against the speedy Lightning early but looked more like themselves in the third when they were getting sustained time in Tampa Bay’s zone and, eventually, finding two quick goals. So the Blackhawks’ mantra heading into Game 2 is, be happy that you pulled out Game 1, but improve off it.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]
“They were obviously really effective, especially early on in the game,” Antoine Vermette said. “On our side, we like to play that kind of game, too. It's a matter of puck possession, establishing pressure and speed. Whoever does that better give themself a better chance in the game.”
The Lightning liked how they played for the most part but didn’t get the desired result. The Blackhawks weren’t thrilled with their overall game but did get the desired result. How each team truly views Game 2 and its must-win level isn’t necessarily evident by what they said. It’ll be evident in how they play.
“Obviously there are some adjustments coming into this series. But I think we're definitely comfortable now. We know how to get off on the right foot in the next game,” Toews said. “ The motivation is right there just to play better. I think when we do that we'll give ourselves a better chance of winning.”