"Games are won and lost in the playoffs in a quick turn," John Tortorella, the Tampa Bay Lightning coach, said before Game 1 of his young team's best-of-seven opener against Washington.
Tortorella knew. Only the precise turn of events had to present itself, which occurred with Robert Lang's baseball-like swing at a puck in mid-air and his connection for the game's first goal to establish the tone in the Capitals' 3-0 victory.
"Lang hits one 350 feet down the line," Tortorella said today, using his best baseball parlance.
"That's what we have to swallow," said 39-year-old captain Dave Andreychuk, one of the few veterans on the Lightning. "For us, with the younger team that we have, sometimes it's a little harder to swallow and a little harder to bounce back."
Tampa Bay will be trying for, or hoping for, one of those "quick turns" in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon, before the series shifts to Washington where the Lightning has lost 11 straight. The question remains: Can the Lightning overcome its youth, settle its nerves and play like veterans?
"I think we were a little tentative at the beginning," Andreychuk said. "I don't think we played the way we did the last month of the season. It's been addressed, so I look for us to have a much better game."
The Lightning knows what it has to do: Increase offensive pressure and keep the puck in play near the Capitals' goal. But many of the young Lightning players will have to calm themselves and mature in a hurry.
"Some guys on the team can't grow beards," defenseman Dan Boyle said.
"The best I could do would be to grow about five hairs," said Vincent Lecavalier, the team's best forward who had a chance to even the score at 1 on a breakaway only to be stopped by a sprawling Olaf Kolzig.
The Lightning's uncertainty that was apparent leading up to Game 1 remained evident in the team's locker room after today's practice.
"You get a little nervous before the game and you want to stay calm," said defenseman Jassen Cullimore, whose turnover late in the second period led to Lang's second goal. "There are certain times during the game when you want to get more excited and the trick is not to get too high. A lot of times when emotions come into play, you want to do a little extra, maybe give someone a little extra shot. You can't do that.
"We just have to work a little harder with a little more desperation. I think you'll see us come out and play a little more aggressive offensively, maybe look for the goals that aren't highlight reels but they're garbage goals."
"We've got to get some ugly goals. We've got to get some rebound goals," Andreychuk said.
Tortorella hoped, among other things, that the tall, gray-haired captain's poise would help settle the youngsters. The coach noted that the jitters hampered his team in Game 1.
"I thought for a little bit in that game it affected some guys," he said, "but the more you play, that effect is going to simmer down. And I believe it'll start in [Saturday's] game."