Lightning acknowledge stronger effort needed to eliminate Canadiens

TAMPA, Fla. — The morning after center Tyler Johnson’s buzzer-beating goal gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a commanding series lead, defenseman Jason Garrison stood within Amalie Arena’s home dressing room aware that a better effort is required.  

Thursday, the outlook on Tampa Bay’s 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals had changed little from the immediate aftermath Wednesday night. "Lucky" was spoken more than once following a result that gave the Lightning a 3-0 advantage in their best-of-7 series. As they prepared for Game 4 on Thursday night, they wanted to leave nothing to chance. 

"I think that guys know that we snuck away with one," Garrison said. "So we made sure that we went over some video and learned from our mistakes that we had last night. We’ve got to make sure we put a full game together tonight."

The final score aside, Montreal skated as the better team Wednesday. The Canadiens outshot the Lightning 31-19, and after center Alex Killorn found the net 12 minutes into the first period to open the scoring, Montreal controlled much of the game for the next two periods.

Coach Jon Cooper’s message to his team was clear: A more disciplined effort is necessary to prevent a return trip to Montreal for Game 5 on Saturday.

"We looked at video today," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "It wasn’t, obviously, our best game [Wednesday]. Our desperation level wasn’t high enough, and obviously, we need to improve that tonight. We know they’re going to come out the same way they did [Wednesday]. So it’s going to be a tough game, but if we’re able to turn things around and play to our strengths, I like our chances."

Hedman has reason to hold that view, because the Lightning have owned the Canadiens recently. Tampa Bay stands 8-0 against Montreal this season. The Lightning carry a 3-0 series lead for the third time in franchise history, and they have gone on to sweep the series both times, against the Canadiens in the 2004 Eastern Conference semifinals and the Washington Capitals in the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals.

"We’ve got to be better than we were yesterday," winger Ondrej Palat said. "I think Montreal played better than us. They were more desperate, and we’ve got to be better."

If the Lightning achieve that goal and win Thursday, they will clinch a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since facing the Boston Bruins in 2011. A sweep would include multiple benefits.

"Rest, practice, mental rest," Cooper said. "There’s a ton of reasons why. … Still, it’s a race to four. We were a little closer than we were, but we’re still not there yet."

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