Cooper says first goal broke the ice for Lightning

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — At least Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper was confident.

"Come on, never a doubt was there?" said Cooper as he began his media conference after Thursday's 3-2 overtime victory over the Red Wings.

The Lightning were able to even the series at 2-2 after being shut down for the opening 54 minutes.

Tyler Johnson had two goals, including the winner, and Ondrej Palat had the tying goal.

"It was clearly a huge team effort because there was no room out there at all," Cooper said. "Those guys took the game over in the last five minutes and it just seemed on the bench guys were never really down.

"It was 2-0 (Red Wings lead) and we weren't getting chances but there was a really positive vibe on the bench with everybody."

The Lightning had gone almost nine periods at Joe Louis Arena without scoring until Johnson's goal at 14:34 of the third period breathed life.

"As soon as we got that one, we grew a couple inches on the bench," Cooper said. "It was like a weight off our shoulders and clearly the game changed at the moment we scored that goal."

Not his fault

Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek allowed three goals in a span of just under eight minutes, but it was difficult to blame him for the loss.

As in Game 2, the Red Wings' defensive mistakes were too difficult for the goalie to negate with saves.

"I don't know what he was supposed to do," coach Mike Babcock said. "That's the problem with the plays. We made the mistakes ourselves. He was fine. I didn't think he was tested a ton. He was fine."

Mrazek sounded as if he'd like to have the first goal by Johnson back.

"He got his speed from the side and put it high blocker on me," said Mrazek, who made 26 saves. "I felt great (throughout the game). The same way I did, I felt like, for the first game at home here. But that wasn't enough."

Glendening effect

Tampa Bay scored its goals after Luke Glendening left with a cut hand midway in the third period and the Johnson line — which had been blanketed by Glendening's line — found room to roam.

Cooper agreed it was a key juncture in the game.

"I don't know how to describe him (Glendening), he's an extremely responsible player and there's not a lot of guys out there like the Glendenings," said Cooper, who coached against Glendening in the minor leagues. "He's done a heck of a job on our guys and they lost a player that plays an extremely important role for them.

"You look back now and we came back to win a game so it was potentially a huge factor."

Playing in pain

Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson missed the first round against the Bruins last season with an injury, and is playing hurt this spring, too.

But he's playing sound hockey.

"In the better games, or the bigger games, he usually is better," Babcock said. "Intensity sometimes in the regular season isn't his calling card, so when he's dialed in, he's a good player."

Niklas Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser have been the two most consistent Red Wings defensemen this season, but Ericsson plays a vital role.

"DeKeyser and Kronwall are the guys who lead the way for us on the back end," Babcock said. "The other guys are more in support roles, but (Ericsson is) an important piece."

Bigger stage

Lightning forward Tyler Johnson (Spokane, Wash.) and Red Wings center Landon Ferraro (Vancouver) would play regularly on summer leagues since they were about 12 years old.

"He's a great kid," Johnson said. "It's fun to see him. When you're playing with people like that your whole life, it's cool to see them succeed."

Ferraro remembers Johnson's family driving "a big mini bus" to summer leagues.

Barkley meets the Coop

NBA legend Charles Barkley had some words of encouragement for the Lightning during Wednesday's "Inside the NBA."

"Come on Tampa Bay, I haven't given up on you yet coach Coop," he said.

Cooper said he met Barkley in Los Angeles last year and was impressed by the way he carried himself.

"After spending a few hours with the guy, he was one of the greatest guys I've met," Cooper said. "I marveled at how he is with other people, the stories he told, and how genuine he was."