Bolts absorb defeat in Game One of Finals

by Gary Shelton on September 20, 2020

in general

Yanni Gourde scored the only Lightning goal./TIM WIRT

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Sometimes, the search for solace takes some doing.

Take Saturday night, as the fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning looked for a reason to believe that the team could overcome its 4-1, opening-game loss to the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the calendar cane help out.

Go back 16 1/2 years, to May 25 of 2004. That Lightning team was trying to get off to a good start in its Stanley Cup Final, too.

But it lost.

By 4-1.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

Of course, if you are familiar at all with the Lightning, you know that team came back to win in seven games. (The Lighting also lost its opener of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final to Chicago, but lost that series in six games).

For a night, the Lightning was slow and sloppy through two periods, and it fell behind 3-1 to a more-rested Dallas team. The Bolts were better in the third period, but could not get the puck into the net.

"We have to do a lot more than just what we did in the third," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I  don’t know if we even needed to take a shower after the first two periods. They defend pretty well as a group. The first games are always tough. Video can only tell you so much until you're in the trenches and see what’s going on.

"Those first two periods, I don't know. We just didn’t have our legs. Clearly it showed. We’re going to have to make it a little tougher on their goalie if we’re going to score.”

The Bolts took 38 shots, but the only goal came off Yanni Gourde's skate. The Lightning has only five goals in its last four games.

"You’ve heard me say it a million times," Cooper said. "Turn the page and move on. You have a short memory in the playoffs.”

Cooper allowed that the quick turnaround from the Islanders series might have had an effect.

“It's hard to say," Cooper said. "Dallas has been the benefactor their last two series. We were benefactors of last series. Do I think it plays a part? I do. But we had some pretty good energy in the third. We need to bring that in the first or second. They came out and were skating. We probably dipped our toes in the water and watched them skate around for a little bit."

For the sixth straight game, the Bolts gave up the opening goal. That hurts, said forward Tyler Johnson.

“I think in the playoffs, it’s always tough playing from behind," Johnson said. "Especially against a team like Dallas that is very good defensively. The first goal is huge. It’s not the end of the world, but at the same time, it’s way easier to play with a lead than trying to obtain it. We have to have a way better start in game two and play a full 60 minutes."

Said Ryan McDonagh: "We need to play at higher pace and a higher tempo."

The Rays now move to New York to face the Mets in a series that begins at 7:10 p.m. The Rays have not announced their starter yet, but the Mets will go with Jacob deGrom.

Previous post:

Next post: