The Tampa Bay Lightning talked about the “must-win” feeling, or lack thereof, heading into Game 2 last week.
Their reasoning was simple.
“We’re pretty confident in our road game,” Matt Carle said at the time. “We’ve shown that a lot throughout the playoffs; where we need to have a must-win on the road, we’ve been able to pull that out.”
It’s hard to argue the logic, considering the Lightning’s effective road game. It was on display again on Monday night when they beat the Blackhawks 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Lightning have a postseason-best 8-3 road mark; their last road loss was Game 1 – yes, Game 1 – of the Eastern Conference Final. They didn’t do anything fancy on Monday night. They didn’t dominate in any particular period, as the Blackhawks did in the first. The Lightning were just steady, playing simple and taking advantage of opportunities.
“I'm not sure if we know exactly the one detail. If we did, we'd do it at home, too,” Brenden Morrow said. “It could be a combination of a lot of things. But maybe when we get on the road there maybe isn't as much focus because we can't have it on matchups. We just go out and play. We're a team that when we have no hesitation to our game, we’re very successful. So that could be part of it. You turn off the thinker a little bit.”
The Lightning also keep their cool on the road. They’ve had to, considering the raucous visiting atmospheres they’ve played in throughout this postseason. They claimed Game 6 in Detroit, where the Red Wings had the chance to eliminate them. They took the first two games at the Bell Centre in Montreal. They won Games 5 and 7 – by shutout, no less – at Madison Square Garden to eventually eliminate the New York Rangers.
And that cool came in handy again on Monday night, when they scored just 13 seconds after the Blackhawks took a 2-1 advantage in the third period.
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Can the Lightning continue that great roadwork and take a 3-1 lead in this series? It won’t be easy. As good as the Lightning have been away from home, the Blackhawks have been great at the United Center. Monday marked just their second postseason loss here – the other was Game 3 against the Anaheim Ducks. The Lightning play a strong road game, practicing patience yet keeping the right amount of aggressiveness. They’re confident right now in what they can do on the road. They have the results at previous stops to prove it.
“Last game was a big win for our group,” Steven Stamkos said on Tuesday. “We’ve said how the past couple games, we're finding consistency at the right time. We're able to deal with those different emotions. That's when you need it most at this time of the year, being able to respond to a big win and a tough loss. Our group has been able to do that.”