Jon Cooper Says Lightning's 'Minds Weren't There' in Game 1 Loss vs. Islanders

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJune 14, 2021

New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) moves the pu8ck in front of Tampa Bay Lightning center Blake Coleman (20) during the third period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

The Tampa Bay Lightning weren't mentally ready for Sunday's Game 1 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series against the New York Islanders.

At least according to their coach.

"Our work ethic was there," Jon Cooper said following his team's 2-1 loss, per Greg Wyshynski of ESPN. "Our compete [level] was there. Our minds weren't there. Some of our decisions were poor. That's what happens when you get this deep into the playoffs. You have to have everything working in unison and we just weren't there tonight."

Sunday's showdown was much different than the Game 1 clash between the same two teams in the Eastern Conference Final inside the bubble.

Tampa Bay won that one 8-2 in dominant fashion and went on to win the series in six games. One of New York's two wins in that series came in double-overtime, so it was clear the Lightning were the better team in that one.

This year might be different.

The Islanders already eliminated high-profile opponents in the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins in the opening two rounds and turned in a defensive masterpiece in Game 1 against the Lightning. They limited Tampa Bay's dangerous chances in front of the net, and goaltender Semyon Varlamov turned away 30 of the 31 shots he faced.

That effort meant goals from Ryan Pulock and Mathew Barzal were enough to steal home-ice advantage.

As for Tampa Bay's mental mistakes, Wyshynski noted Steven Stamkos' giveaway led to Barzal's opening goal in the second period. It was one of seven giveaways from the home team, while the Islanders had just one.

Tampa Bay will look to turn things around in Tuesday's Game 2.