Behind closed doors, lightning is not afraid to speak hard truths

NEW YORK – Sound doesn’t always matter. And the tone is not always angry.

So far, Lightning has won enough, lost enough and developed enough that players don’t need Knute Rockne’s version of pre-game speech to send them screaming into the night.

Sometimes they just need to be reminded. Who are they, where have they been and what they are trying to achieve. Sometimes they need someone like Cory Berry.

Two weeks ago, when the season was about to take on Toronto, Perry decided it was time to make his voice heard. He was with Dallas when the Lightning beat the Stars in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. He was with Montreal when the Lightning beat the Canadians in the 2021 Cup.

Now he was telling his colleagues in Tampa Bay what those experiences were like. How frustrating and exhausting it was to play against Lightning when they were totally sticking to their system.

He didn’t need to connect the dots, but the conclusion was clear. The Lightning wasn’t making the same kind of effort against Toronto.

Right lightning Corey Perry on the ice during training at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
Right lightning Corey Perry on the ice during training at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

A few days later, Lightning eliminated the Maple Leafs.

“Try to read the room. You try to get perspective on how to talk to them,” Berry said. “It’s not that you’re yelling at anyone, but that you know the tone of your voice and how you want to say what needs to be said. As you know, we are all brothers. And we’re going to have differences, but you start to see how guys react in certain ways. You are just trying to be yourself.

“I’m a little different on the rink. I’m calmer than here. But I’m comfortable with these guys in the locker room, and I can say whatever I want to say.”

So who’s going to say something before Friday’s game two against Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final? Who is going to stand up and say that the things that happened during the 6-2 loss in the first game were unacceptable?

You don’t have to be Berry. It doesn’t have to be Stephen Stamkos. This is a team full of veterans, stars and characters. Ryan McDonagh has a voice. Pat Maroon, too. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Alex Killorn. Even Nikita Kucherov, who experienced moments of immaturity in the past, grew up as a leader.

Coach John Cooper will have his say – and he did on Thursday’s training day – but he knows the history shared in the dressing room and how much trust there is between the players.

Sometimes it’s best to let the guys figure out what to say.

“We, as a group, are very good at self-correcting. Guys, it takes a personal toll,” Cooper said. “And I think that (Game 1), especially in the depths of where we are now, the way the outcome got out of hand affects the players. “

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Lightning Center Steven Stamkos after taking a shot while on the ice during training one day after losing the series opener to Rangers.
Lightning Center Steven Stamkos after taking a shot while on the ice during training one day after losing the series opener to Rangers. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The Lightning scored 8-4 this season, but that hasn’t been an easy time compared to recent memories. They’ve lost Brayden’s injured point, playing with an oddly shaped slate.

They’ve already fallen behind at the series times this year by more than the past two seasons combined. They were behind Toronto 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, and now they are behind New York 1-0.

The only time they’ve been chasing teams in the past two years was when they lost the series opening games to the Bruins (2020), the All-Stars (2020) and the Islanders (2021).

“We have to respond,” Stamkos said. “We’ve been in this situation before, and I’m confident our group will do a much better effort in the next match.”

It is now an indelible part of this team’s tradition that it always follows post-season loss with victory. And since the start of the 2020 qualifiers, they are barely above .500 in Game 1 of the series (scoring 6-5), but they are almost perfect in Game 2 (9-1).

None of that will mean anything against Rangers on Friday at Madison Square Garden. It’s a different season, a different series, and a different Lightning team.

But there is a common experience here and a common expectation, too. Berry saw it from abroad for two years and now has a better understanding of what makes this collection unique.

He might have something to say if he gets in the mood on Friday, but he’ll likely let someone else take the initiative.

“When you win back-to-back Cups, you’re going to have a lot of players who have been there, have done it and gone through it all. Not a lot of teams have that luxury,” Berry said. “The same people don’t always talk. It’s whenever, whatever, whatever. Whatever is said, it will be said.”

John Romano can be reached at Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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