Lightning, Golden Knights 1 win from conference finals
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning understand what it takes to be successful in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And as the Vegas Golden Knights are also showing, the winning formula can vary from game to game and series to series.
Dominant defense is part of the equation. So is timely and opportunistic offense. Mental toughness is a prerequisite. It pays to be resilient, too.
“I just think any time you’re winning games, you’re battling through something,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
“Maybe a better way to put it is you’re making a big play at the right time,” Cooper added. “It seems teams that move on often are doing that, and teams that don’t miss out on opportunities.”
The Lightning’s latest victory has them one away from the team’s third trip to the Eastern Conference final in four years, a step they can take by beating the Boston on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC) at home in Game 5 of their best-of-seven semifinal.
The Golden Knights, meanwhile, lead their second-round series against the San Jose Sharks 3-2 and can secure a spot in the Western Conference final by winning Game 6 on the road Sunday night (7:30 p.m., NBCSN).
“I’d be the first one to tell you we’ve accomplished nothing,” Cooper said. “We’ve won a couple of games in this series. You’ve got to win four, not three.”
Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn, who had the primary assist on Dan Girardi’s overtime goal that pushed the Bruins to the brink of elimination in Game 4, said there’s a sense of urgency to end the series and avoid a return trip to Boston.
“I think it has to looked at that way,” Killorn said. “That’s a great team. You go back to Boston, you give them a chance to get back in the series, you never know what will happen.”
CONTROL YOUR TONGUE
Bruins winger Brad Marchand has been given an edict by the NHL: Stop licking opponents or you’ll be punished.
The league announced Saturday that Marchand had been put “on notice” after licking Lightning forward Ryan Callahan in the face during Game 4 on Friday night. Marchand appeared to lick Toronto’s Leo Komarov in the first round, too.
Senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell spoke to Marchand and Boston general manager Don Sweeney on Saturday about the latest incident. The league said it was made clear to Marchand that his actions were unacceptable and he will face supplemental discipline if it happens again.
Marchand, whose 17 points are second on the Bruins and fourth among all players in the playoffs, could face a fine or suspension if he licks another opponent.
“It’s unfortunate that he goes that low to do that, but (it) doesn’t take us off our game. We keep going, and we’ll let the refs handle that,” Callahan said. “Like I said, I’m just surprised that something isn’t done because I don’t know what’s the difference between spitting in someone’s face and licking it.”
ONE STEP AWAY
As tempting as it may to be think about how close the Golden Knights are to reaching the Westeren Conference final, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said the team’s mind-set is much the same as it’s been all season.
“I think we had this mentality all year long: it’s all about the next game,” the three-time Stanley Cup champion said. “That’s where the focus has to be. Just rest, relax and eat well. Get ready for the next one.”
NOT THE FIRST TIME
Vegas can become the third team in NHL history to win multiple series in its inaugural season. The league’s first-ever postseason saw the Toronto Arenas win the 1918 NHL Final against the Montreal Canadiens before defeating the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s Vancouver Millionaires to win the Stanley Cup. In 1968, the St. Louis Blues defeated the Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota North Stars to emerge from the all-expansion West Division to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Boston trails the Lightning 3-1 and needs to win three straight to take the series — not impossible considering the Bruins won three of four meetings between the teams during the regular season.
“I’s far from over,” Marchand said. “We’ve been on both sides of it, so you know, we’re just going to regroup and get ready for the next one.”
Forward Patrice Bergeron said the Bruins will have to play “desperate hockey” to force the series back to Boston for Game 6.
“We’ve shown character all year. … I’ve spoke about that, about the resilience in this room,” Bergeron said, “so it’s time to show it.”