Jon Cooper breaks down impact of young Lightning players, chemistry within lines

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Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper talks about how young players Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli performed and chemistry within the lines.

REPORTER: How about the young guys? Joseph and Cirelli, especially, my goodness, what a game they had.

- Yeah. Speaking of Joseph first, you could tell the nerves were on him a little bit in the first period, completely understandable. I think his mom and dad were in the crowd. And you just go around, every opening night game some teams have multiple guys playing their first game.

But it's always fun to watch that game happen. And then he had some big assignments tonight, and he was great with the penalty kill. But his speeds, his game, and when he got his legs under him, I thought he was great. That line as a whole was outstanding. Cirelli might have been one of the best players on the ice for us. And you work that hard, and do so many things right, eventually you're going to get the chance he did, and obviously a huge goal for us.

REPORTER: Do you feel like the team played better from the second period on, and if so, what was sort of the difference?

- I have so many answers to that that I'd say when the mic's off. But clearly our game-- we weren't skating in the first period. For whatever the reasons were, they were much better. They were beating us to pucks. When you look at the statistics inside the 16 to 4 shot advantage, scoring chances were like 5-4, 5-3.

So we weren't overly concerned. I thought we had a really good second period. We took the play to them. And scoring chances were probably 3-1 for us, couldn't find the back in that. But I really liked the way we were playing.

The Achilles heel tonight was-- you just can't take three penalties in third period. You just sucked the life out of ourselves. And every time we were trying to get it back, there went another penalty. And it just went back to kind of fell back into the trap, and not skating, and turning pucks over, and that's what happens.

And so something we're obviously going up to address now. But in saying that, the much maligned penalty kill from last year for tonight kept them off the board and got the goal to push us to overtime. So a lot of positive take from that.

REPORTER: What did the penalty kill do well [INAUDIBLE] tonight? I think they were pretty aggressive in some spots tonight.

- Well, I didn't-- you look at it a couple of ways. The shot discrepancy in the game, but they had 12 power play shots. So you need your goaltender to make some saves. But I didn't think he had to make terribly difficult saves until the Hoffman shot. And ironically, it was right before we scored, he makes a 10 bell save on Hoffman, and then we go down and score.

So ultimately we kept them [INAUDIBLE] the outside, we didn't give them big chances, we cleared the rebounds. But when you have that many power plays, at some point the goalie is going to have to make a big one, and he made a big one.

REPORTER: You mentioned Joseph getting tough assignments, and he was playing the last minute of the regulation and an overtime shift. What did he show you to get that trust in his first game?

- All the same stuff he showed in the preseason. So there's a reason he played the amount of games in preseason, and got to play in the regular season, and got to play down the stretch. He earned it. And guys that earn it are going to play.

REPORTER: You don't play for-- one more. Sorry. You don't play for a while now. Is that a good thing? Or do you like the practice idea now for the next four days [INAUDIBLE]?

- Hard to say. All I know is we won tonight. This is a really tough league to win in. And you're going to take the points any way we can get them. Do we have stuff to clean up? I think I've listened to every single coach in the league's press conference say, we did pretty well, but we've got a long ways to go. So I'll just say everything that they've been saying.

But we'll wake up tomorrow, we've got 2 more points than we had today, and that's what it's about this league. They're not all going to be pretty, but we'll take it, and we'll move on, and have another training camp until our next game.

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