Lightning coach Jon Cooper thinks controversial Game 5 overtime loss is 'unfortunate', looks to shift focus

Lightning coach Jon Cooper was emotional on Wednesday night after Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri potted the overtime winner in Game 4 for the Avalanche, putting Cooper's crew down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final. He was much calmer and collected 12 hours later. 

On Thursday afternoon, the Tampa Bay bench boss first apologized to the media for abruptly leaving Wednesday night's press conference, explaining how he had not seen the video of the Avs with too many men until right before he came to speak to the media. 

Cooper then discussed moving on from the controversy and focusing on Friday night's contest. 

"What's great about today is that it's not yesterday and, now, it's like I've got some excitement for Game 5," Cooper said during his media availability on Thursday. "My mind is turning on how to win that. Nothing that we can do to turn back. They missed it. It's unfortunate but it's water under the bridge now. It should be a hell of a Game 5."

Cooper had answered just one question after Game 4, in which he expressed his thoughts that the Avalanche's overtime goal should not have counted since Colorado had six players on the ice prior to the goal. 

"I’ll speak with you tomorrow," Cooper said after Game 4. "You’re going to see what I mean when you see that goal. My heart breaks for the players because we probably still should be playing. I’ll be available tomorrow."

Social media went into a frenzy, with multiple screenshots and videos showing that Nathan MacKinnon was slow on his line change and it appeared as though Kadri jumped on the ice early, giving the Avs six players in play at once. MacKinnon was measured to be 42.5 feet away from the bench when his teammate came onto the ice. 

The officials did not make the penalty call and seconds later, Kadri raced in, made a slick move around the stick of Mikhail Sergachev and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy on the blocker side. 

MORE: Too many men on the ice explained

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, who initially on Wednesday did not understand Cooper's pushback on the goal, went back and reviewed the play and thought it was "nothing."

"That's part of the game," Bednar said. "It's a fluid game. You're changing on the fly, everything happens ... So that is what it is. That's the way the game is played. I don't see it as a break or a non-break. I actually see it as nothing."

Cooper's stance on the play aligned more with Bednar on Thursday, as he admitted that those kinds of line changes are a part of the game and there's no point in reflecting on it further. 

"It's the way the game is and you can't pout about it," Cooper added. "That's why you turn the page, move on, and let's go. The mountain is a little bit higher but, at least, we're still climbing. We're not out."

Cooper himself admitted to getting lucky breaks. The first thing people compared the Avalanche's too many men on the ice no-call to was a play that happened just a year ago, where the Lightning benefitted from a non-call during the 2021 conference finals.

On Yanni Gourde's shorthanded tally, which proved to be the game-winning goal in Game 7 of last year's series against the Islanders, it appeared as though the Lightning had seven players on the ice prior to the goal. However, no call was made and the Lightning went on to win the game and eventually the Cup. 

MORE: When and where is Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final?

"The game winner is an unfortunate non-call," Cooper continued. "That's how you get breaks. Listen, this is the king of getting them. Teams I've had when we've had leads in games and won championships you get those, but what comes around goes around."

The Lightning will look to keep their season alive, needing to rattle off three consecutive wins against the Avalanche in the finals in order to avoid elimination.

"We're still in it. Obviously, it's a tough loss, but the good thing is we're still playing hockey,"  Pat Maroon said on Thursday. "We haven't lost yet. It's the first one to four wins right now. We've got a challenge in front of us, but if it's one team that can do it, it's this team."

Game 5 is set for Friday, June 24 at Ball Arena in Denver, with puck drop scheduled to take place just after 8 p.m. ET. 

Author(s)
Bryan Murphy is an NHL Content Producer for The Sporting News. He previously worked at NBC Sports and is a graduate of Quinnipiac University.