Jon Cooper addressed the media after his team’s 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
On his best players stepping up in the victory:
I don’t know how far teams go when their big guys aren’t going. You need them, especially at times when your backs are against the wall. We can’t stay that our backs were against the wall — it was one game — but we needed tonight. They stepped up.
It started with our goaltender. He was outstanding. We just fed off of those two penalty kills at the start of the game. They just gave us energy, and we took off from there.
On how the momentum changed with the goal late in the first period:
I think they iced it with 15 seconds left. You are almost thinking they could be out of it, and then we score. It was probably a little sigh of relief for our group. It kind of took the crowd out of it a little bit.
For me, the big one is the second one. It is all well and good to score one, but we get the second one, and now you’re making them chase a bit. It worked out for us.
On Victor Hedman’s four-point game:
It is going back to your best players being your best players. He is the guy who quarterbacks that power play back there. On that second goal, how about that pass he makes to Perry?
You need that out of your guy, especially when he is playing north of 25 minutes a night. He defended. He penalty killed. He did everything in every situation. What did he have? Four points tonight?
That is the catalyst for us. The big guys stepped up. Everybody chips in behind them. We had success.
On the improved execution on the power play:
It was a heck of a lot better than it was the first night. Again, this series has been a lot about special teams, if you think about it. The power plays of each team have scored. There are shorthanded goals in there. There is a bunch of stuff.
For our guys to start feeling good about themselves out there, especially after how the first night unfolded, it was nice to see.
On adjusting to the standard of officiating in the series so far:
We are aware of what we are doing. We can only control ourselves. We can’t control the other team. You have to play the game between the whistles. It was a little frustrating on our part. We took a too-many-men call.
It is playoff hockey. Guys are going to step up and back their team. Much like we did the other night, they did tonight. The teams want to win. Guys are battling hard. But you have to be smart about it.
On the Lightning not losing two games in a row in the playoffs since 2019:
What does it take to bounce back like that? It takes character. You have to have that in your room. They are aware of situations.
You have to tip your hats to those guys for losing a playoff game and going in the next night and saying, “We are not losing this one.” You have a really good chance of winning the Stanley Cup if you can do that: not lose two in a row.
On whether his team hates to lose more than they love to win:
One of the players said that to me after Game 1. We kind of shared it with the team. I think that is what you have to do. You have to make it personal.
Whatever you do is to create anger inside and a want to… whether the want is to win or the want is not to lose, it’s either one. That is the mindset we had going into tonight.
On the confidence the Lightning gained from arguably the best goalie in the world and the best defenseman in the world making such an impact in the Game 2 win:
Everything starts there, right? I know we gave up three tonight and probably were a little disappointed we gave up those last two where we probably didn’t have to, but everything starts with defending. I thought we did a pretty good job with that.
To be able to defend, you have to have the horses back there. We have got the goalie. Whether it is Heddy, Cernak, Mac, Sergachev, or Bogo and Footer — who were great — you have to make life hard on teams when they come around your net. I think we have done a good job of that.
Again, we are pretty fortunate to have some of those players back there.
On the decision to play Zach Bogosian over Jan Rutta:
[Rutta] has some stitches, and it is just never good to be in that situation. I talked to our guys. You might be out one game, but you might be in the next. It is not, “This is what we are doing and we are changing our lineup if we lose.” We will change our lineup if we win. We wanted to get Bogo into one of these two. Tonight was the night.
On the team’s penalty kill stepping up in the game:
It is a necessity for us. Our PK was doing fairly well during the year, but I think Hagel and Paul have added a little pop to us and given us some more depth. With the three guys we had that are consistent there, they know what they are doing back there.
First of all, you can’t be taking the number of penalties… We even took four tonight. To me, that is still too much, especially against a power play like theirs. When you do, you have to be able to kill them off.
That is the biggest thing for me. Your PK has to be rolling. When it is holding teams to zero goals, it is giving you a chance to win.