Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
On his team building a 3-0 lead and holding onto it despite a big push from Tampa in the third period:
It shows that we were prepared. The guys were focused tonight. We got an early power play and took advantage of it. That is what we talked about and we weren’t able to do in Game 2. That is a huge goal for us that sets us up well in the game.
We got a good kill after that and followed it up with a huge goal. We got a great break. At this time of year, you need guys to make plays and step up with the play by Lyubushkin and finish by Blackwell. It got us off to a great start. Obviously, the Kampf goal is huge as well. It sets us up well in the game.
From there, we bent a little bit. We knew they were going to push. We didn’t break.
On the message to the team during the timeout when Tampa Bay made it 3-2:
Just to relax. We’re fine. It is a combination of allowing me to talk to the team, for us to settle down, and it is also a little bit of an attempt to kill some momentum a little bit. We had a lot of time left to play in the period. We needed to recognize we were fine. These are the games we need to win.
I thought the response was good. We played hard tonight. We found a way. Jack made some huge saves for us. We iced the game at 6-on-5, and that is a very dangerous team at 6-on-5. That is big.
On whether the win is a big step forward for his team:
It is a big step. We knew they were going to push and they were going to come. We are trying to be a team that wins these games and finds a way to win them. Sometimes, they are not perfect or the way you’d like it to be, but you need to find a way to keep it out and battle.
I thought guys really stepped up. We got big shifts. I thought the play of the Kampf, Mikheyev, and Engvall line in the third period was excellent. It was great to see those guys as the ones rewarded with the empty nets.
On whether Matthews not scoring on his breakaway when up 3-1 and Tampa scoring shortly after was an “oh shit” moment:
There is a bit of that. You get a chance and you want to make it count. You have a chance to essentially ice the game there. When it doesn’t happen, you feel like their team is going to get some life and are going to respond to that. I have been in that situation as a player and as a coach. When your goalie makes a save like that, it gives your team a little bit of a lift.
We talked about the fact that we needed to dig in and be good coming out of that. We also felt that if we continued to play the way that we were, we would get more looks like that. We felt strongly that we would be able to counter and take advantage of them really pushing.
Obviously, Mikheyev got another breakaway that didn’t go for us. Those are the types of looks that we thought we would get. That is part of what we talked about, too, in the timeout: continue to battle and compete. We will get our chances. We don’t have to take any risks. We felt the chances would come.
The focus, obviously, needed to be on keeping the puck moving out of our end.
On Jack Campbell’s huge save on the Steven Stamkos one-timer:
That is a game-saving save. We made a mistake on the play. We didn’t make a lot of mistakes on the penalty kill today. We made one in the neutral zone that ended up in our net. We made one there that allowed that pass to get through.
There was a bit of a sense on the bench that it is going in. Stamkos doesn’t miss those very much when it comes through like that. But Jack is well aware that is a legitimate threat. He is conscious of it.
One of the great things about Jack is that he never gives up on a puck. He never feels like he is out of it. He found a way to keep it out.
On David Kampf’s value in his role:
Coming into the season, I already had respect for his game and what he could bring us, but he has delivered for us. He is a guy that, whether I play him 10 minutes — I haven’t played him that little very often — or 15-20 mintes, his game doesn’t change.
He is always on the right side of the puck. He gives you everything that he has. He is just the ultimate team player who knows who he is and how he can help influence the game. He does that.
We have been thinking and talking about it all year that at this time of year especially, he was going to bring tremendous value to us. So far, it is how it is working out.
On David Kampf scoring clutch goals in the playoffs:
He doesn’t score unimportant goals. He has been really good in that regard. I think it just speaks to his character that he is level-headed and even-keeled. He doesn’t have any huge swings in emotion or energy. In those moments, he can make a play. He doesn’t panic or anything like that.
We certainly knew he had way more ability than a one goal scorer. He has a good skill set if you watch the way he can handle the puck and protects the puck. He can skate with it. He can make a pass. He can shoot it.
We knew he had way more offense in him, but that is not what he is here for, especially on this team. He has other guys that do that. He does a ton of little things that help us win. It just so happens at this time of year that you need some people at different times to step out of character a little bit.
Tonight, I think that was the case — not just with Kampf, but Lyubushkin and the play he made, and Blackwell scored us a huge goal.
On how the team has solved Andrei Vasilevskiy 11 times through three games:
You look at tonight’s game, and some of the goals were a little bit different than the others have been. I think we have done a good job of it. We had some goals with some really good traffic. Obviously, that is important.
Tonight, if you look at the Blackwell goal, we get him moving. It is a very tough save for a goalie to make and a tremendous play by Lybushkin to essentially freeze him and send it over. That is a tough play there.
We feel like we have gotten some good fortune on some shots as well. We have done a good job of generating enough good chances and looks. That is the thing I would point to the most. It seems like some of our best chances haven’t gone in. We talked about the Matthews chances today.
We found a way here now in two out of three games to get enough to win. Getting to three was important tonight. It is important every night to get to three. It would’ve been nice to get to four. It would’ve been a little less stressful.
I don’t know if I can point to one thing other than that our guys have been good to generate those looks.
On Pierre Engvall passing over the empty-netter to Ilya Mikheyev:
Tremendous. I would like to maybe cut out the margin for error and just shoot it in the net, you know? With the fact that it didn’t bounce over Miky’s stick or anything like that, we’ll take it.
You need to be selfless at this time of year. There are a lot of things that happen in the game that are selfless. You are doing things to help your team win, whether it is blocking a shot, being on the defensive side of the puck vs. the offensive side, changing early before you’re tired, or whatever it is.
Those are little moments that just show this team is unified.
On the level of trust he has in the Mikheyev – Kampf – Engvall line in any matchup:
Especially like a game tonight with the way the matchups are going, not only do they stabilize our team, but when we put them over the boards, they are countering with their third line a lot of the time. A lot of their best players are not playing in that case. That in and of itself helps us on the road here.
I don’t sweat it at all when those guys are out there. Really, it’s whoever Kampf’s wingers are. When he is with those two guys especially, things seem to really settle down for us.
On Jason Spezza and Justin Holl’s first game of the series:
I thought Spezza gave us some really good touches. You could see his poise and confidence out there. He made a lot of smart plays with the puck. I was really happy about that.
I thought Hollsy did a good job for us. I would have to watch it all back to see a lot of the detail in his game. There were a couple of times that guys got in behind him. That is something we can’t allow to happen. For what we were looking to get out of him and being on the road with the matchups, I was happy with what we got from him.