3 things the Lightning hope to carry over into do-or-die Game 5

TAMPA — The Lightning still face a steep climb in their first-round playoff series against the Panthers.

But they’re still alive.

After winning Game 4 on home ice Saturday night to stave off elimination, the Lightning trail in the best-of-seven series three games to one as action heads back to Sunrise for Game 5 on Monday night.

Their 6-3 win over Florida in Game 4 was the largest margin of victory in what has been a tightly-contested series.

Here’s what the Lightning need to carry over from Saturday night to bring the series back to Amalie Arena for a Game 6 on Wednesday:

Remain ‘emotionally engaged’

This isn’t anything made for cinema yet. It’s just one win, but the Lightning easily could have accepted an early exit and been golfing by Sunday morning. But it’s been a fine line between winning and losing in all four games, and the team that made plays down the stretch has ended up prevailing.

Playing an elimination game is difficult, but a team can leave everything on the ice, physically and emotionally. In Game 5, the challenge will be staying “emotionally engaged,” as Lightning coach Jon Cooper called it Sunday, realizing there’s still a long road ahead, but winning each period is important.

“It’s been a series of ebbs and flows,” Cooper said. “There’s times when they’re kind of all over us and I feel like there’s some times when we’re all over them. So it’s how each team handles those. When we’re emotionally engaged, which we definitely were (Saturday) night, that’s a good thing for us.”

Said center Anthony Cirelli: “Just build off of last game. Obviously, our emotion was high. We’ve got to come out desperate. Our lives are on the line. So it’s another game where we’ve got to come out and play a full 60-minute game from the first period and just carry it on all game.”

Sergachev continues to settle in

The surprise return of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev gave the Lightning an emotional boost and sent a surge through Amalie Arena when fans realized he was going to play in his first game since Feb. 7, when he broke two major bones in his left leg.

Sergachev definitely made a difference on the ice in his first game back. He had the primary assist on Brandon Hagel’s goal that gave the Lightning a 4-1 lead. But the Lightning certainly held Sergachev back, keeping in mind that he’s only played in one game since Dec. 19 (when he missed time with a left foot injury).

With a game under his belt, Sergachev can really start getting back to the elite-level defenseman he is. One of his biggest strengths is how he can stretch the ice with the way he moves the puck out of his own end, something the Lightning can use in getting back into this series.

“He’s a special player,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “So you can have a guy like that back there helping out with the breakouts and just getting his touches and advancing the puck, it’s huge.

Maintain movement, aggressiveness on the power play

The Lightning benefited from getting some early power plays, and Steven Stamkos’ power-play goal on their second man advantage of the game gave Tampa Bay an immediate spark. Putting Brandon Hagel on the net front of the first power-play unit helped.

Hagel had the secondary assist on Stamkos’ goal. And instead of passing the puck around the perimeter looking for a play, the power play buzzed around the net to create space down low. With the weapons they have, it’s then just a matter of finding the open man and finishing.

After going 2-for-12 in the first three games, the Lightning were 2-for-5 in Game 4. Stamkos’ game-opening goal was huge, and Nick Paul ended the scoring with a 5-on-3. But the Lightning also got two 4-on-4 goals and a shorthanded score.

“It’s like goal scorers,” Cooper said. “Goal scorers are used to scoring goals, but sometimes there’s a little bit of a slump and then sometimes they can get super streaky. And it can be the same thing for a power play. And it just gets magnified when it’s in the playoffs. And we’ve had some big moments that the power play could have helped us and did not.”

“(Saturday night), we need it, they gave it to us,” Cooper added. “And, so I think your confidence starts to brew and all of a sudden you’re getting better looks than you thought you could; now you’re getting in the zone easier and there’s so many things that manifest from scoring a power-play goal.”

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