TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Eric Cairns sat down at his locker, leaned over to remove some tape from his legs and spoke in a barely audible tone.
His two turnovers ruined an otherwise solid performance by the New York Islanders in Thursday night’s 3-0 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the 6-foot-6, 230-pound defenseman still felt bad about the mistakes.
Game 2 of the first-round Eastern Conference series is Saturday, though, and Cairns knows he and the team have to put the disappointment behind them.
“You’re a professional,” he said after practice Friday. “It’s my job. You have to.”
Cairns gave away the puck in the Islanders’ zone twice within a six-minute span of the second period, setting up Tampa Bay’s first two goals and digging a hole too deep for the Islanders to escape.
The first turnover made an unlikely star of Tampa Bay’s Andre Roy, who stole a cross-ice pass and skated past Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro to snap a scoreless tie with his first career playoff goal.
The other occurred when Cairns lost the puck coming around the back of the New York net, giving Fredrik Modin a point-blank chance to make it 2-0.
“Those things are a part of the game,” Cairns said. “It’s a seven-game series. I’ll be ready tomorrow.”
With the exception of the turnovers, the eighth-seeded Islanders felt they played the way they need to win the series. Still, no one tried to pin the blame for losing the opener on Cairns.
“We all make mistakes,” DiPietro said. “I’ve turned over plenty of pucks in my career that have cost us goals. You never fault a guy for trying hard. … No one holds him responsible for what happened.”
Islanders coach Steve Stirling would not say if he intends to play Cairns in Game 2.
“You’re always going to look at changes. … We played pretty well, but I wasn’t jumping through hoops with everybody,” Stirling said. “We’ve got to fix a couple of things up front and we’ll look at the back end, see how our matchups are … and see who gives us the best chance.”
The coach said he had not spoken with the defenseman about the mistakes.
“I don’t think I need to say anything,” Stirling said. “We’ve all been there before, including myself. As players and coaches, we make mistakes.
“Nothing I’m going to say is going to make him feel any better, and there’s nothing you can tell me when I make a mistake that is going to make me feel any better. I know it was a mistake. I’m going to get over it and move on.”
Roy knows something about rebounding from postseason disappointment. He was benched last year for undisciplined play that resulted in a penalty, leading to a crucial goal and subsequent Lightning loss to Washington in Game 2 of their first-round series.
Although he returned to appear in three games against New Jersey in the next round, Roy thought at the time that his playing days in Tampa Bay were over.
“At this time last year, I was already in my car going home,” Roy said. “We want to play hard, but disciplined. I know the referees will be watching me, so I try to keep my composure out there. It’s a great feeling, especially to get the win.”
But the top-seeded Lightning know their work has just begun.
“It’s big for us to get the first game, it really is,” Modin said. “But it’s nothing more than that. We’ve got a lot of games left, and we know it’s going to be a tough series.”