Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning

After an off day on Friday, Jon Cooper discussed his team’s recent dip on home ice in the playoffs and another do-or-die game against the Maple Leafs in Game 6 on Saturday night.

After the game last night, you mentioned how much fun this series is. How much do you enjoy playoff time in general?

Cooper: This is everything to me. I can’t imagine not being in the playoffs. I remember in 2017, we didn’t make it, and it’s this empty feeling. You play 82 games, and that’s it. There is a deep hunger for the big prize, especially after you’ve won it once. You want to keep doing it again.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t stress involved or anything like that, but this is what drives me and our team. It is just a lot of fun to go to battle with these guys through thick and thin. It has been a ton of fun.

You have lost your last four home playoff games, and three of them were in overtime. Is there a common thread in there? How do you buck that trend and make sure it goes in the right direction?

Cooper: You have to score the next one. It is like anything. We have had some great success in overtime. Unfortunately, of late, it hasn’t gone our way. Just learn from the experiences and move on.

A big thing would be to not take penalties. That goes against you.

Our mindset is right. Have we had chances in the last game? #91 had a grade-A right in the slot. Instead of going in the top corner, it happens to hit the goalie’s mask. They come down, get a tip, and instead of going post out, it goes post in.

Those are the difference right there. More often than not, we’ll get our chances to make it go our way. Hopefully, we don’t need to go to overtime and we can just win it in regulation.

What was the bench like in Toronto after Nick Paul’s goal?

Cooper: As much as Nick yelled on the ice, I think we all yelled the same for him. You are so used to a lot of the same guys scoring the goals. To see Mikey Eyssimont get one and Nick get one, and even Killorn the game before — who hadn’t score in a while — it is a big reason why we are where we are.

We have a really close team. The guys pull for each other. There are no outliers. They are just gamers who want to him. They really cheer for the guys who have’t been in as much of the limelight as some of the other guys.

You have received some incredible depth scoring. 13 different guys have scored in the series over five games. At some point, though, do you need your top guys to have more of an impact offensively?

Cooper: Yeah… Again, if you are going to win in the playoffs, you need everyone scoring. We are still around in the playoffs, and the guys used to scoring all the goals haven’t quite scored yet. It is probably a good sign for us. Eventually, they are going to score.

Is Erik Cernak available for tomorrow night?

Cooper: Cernak is not available.