The Tampa Bay Lightning's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins shifts to the St. Pete Times Forum for Monday night's Game 3. With the best-of-seven series tied at a game apiece, the Lightning can put some serious pressure on the Penguins with a win. Faceoff is a little after 7:30pm, and the game will be televised by Sun Sports.
Although the Lightning rolled to a 5-1 win in Friday's Game 2, there's still concern about the ongoing slump that Steven Stamkos is in. Stamkos finished with 45 goals on the season, but he only scored five in his last 28 regular-season games and he has yet to find the scoresheet in the playoffs. Which begs the question that the team's marketing department was asking during the summer of 2008 -- Seen Stamkos?
Stamkos talked with the media for awhile after Sunday's practice in Brandon, and talked about what he learned from his first-ever Stanley Cup playoff games:
"It's different. You can say all you want and watch as many playoff games as I did over the past couple of years. Until you play in one, you don't realize how intense it is, how hard you have to compete. Everyone's coming to take your head off out there, and you've still got to be able to be patient and make the play."
Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone knows what Stamkos is going through. His playoff debut in 2007 with the Penguins was a rough one, and he talked to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about his experience and the adjustment period that comes from reaching the playoffs for the first time.
"We got pinned in our end the first 10 minutes of the first game [against Ottawa in 2007]," Malone recalled. "It felt like they had 10 guys on the ice."
"[Stamkos] has played two playoff games. They always say the playoffs are different, but you don't really know that until you play in them. Even myself, you learn something after every playoff game. That's what the real hockey is about.
"You think you had a good regular season, but it all comes down to the playoffs and what you can do. It's a learning experience for everybody. I think [Stamkos] is learning that as well right now."
Lightning coach Guy Boucher, as he often does, changed up his line combinations regularly during Game 2. Stamkos saw time on the top scoring line, and also on a checking line, but he didn't view it as a demotion:
"We're going to go with what works and who is going. I think we've seen that all year. I got switched to wing and came back. That's kind of Coach Boucher's style. I think it helps in the playoffs when you can get guys moving around and maybe screwing up their D pairings."
On the Penguins' side, the focus was on beating Tampa Bay's 1-3-1 defensive system through the neutral zone. Along with spending time during their practice working on rushes up the ice to beat the 1-3-1, they tried to figure out how to breathe some life into their power play, which sits at 0-for-13 so far in the series. But with no sign of Sidney Crosby returning to the lineup and Evgeni Malkin done for the year, there may only be so much the team can do to jump start the power play.
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