TAMPA (FOX 13) - The final horn sounded June 15, 2015. It was season over. The Blackhawks had crushed the Lightning's quest for the franchise's second Stanley Cup championship.
"When you go that far, there's just a... It's a bittersweet taste," said Cooper. "You have to find a way to get back, because you want to get back."
They hung their heads in the locker room that night. Their emotions were focused on that moment. Little did the Lightning know, that exact moment would be the driving force behind another berth into another Eastern Conference Final.
"It's tough to beat any team four times in a row, especially in the playoffs," said goaltender Ben Bishop. "To be able to do that against the team over there, it just shows you how kind of put the games behind us and get ready for the next one."
Not only is that the mentality from game to game, but it's exactly how the Bolts have dealt with inconsistency and injuries.
"We're a motivated group, we're a tough team to play against," said forward Brian Boyle. "We understand that we can't take any games off, we can't wait around. Every game matters right now. I think we've done a pretty good job with that."
"You say there's not a switch to be flipped in the playoffs, but you definitely can see some of these guys have really turned it up a notch," said Bishop.
Even without their top goal-scorer in Steven Stamkos, and even without who is arguably their best defenseman in Anton Stralman, the Lightning's goal has remained the same: get back to the Final.
"We haven't played the perfect playoffs in every single game," said Cooper. "But when we've slipped, whether it was Ben pulling it out for us, or a game our power play had to pull it out -- or whether it's been Kuch or Johnny, you go down the line; Garrison, Boyle -- you're getting that contribution from everybody in the lineup and if you want to win you need that."
The Lightning has that, and now they're four wins away from another Stanley Cup Final.