NORTH LAKELAND, Fla. (FOX 13) - In sports, half the battle is the game itself. The other is the mental game at play.
Until the playoffs, the Lightning hadn't truly been tested. They've lost three games in a row - something they didn't do all season long - and are now on the brink of elimination against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"The ability for them to stay in the moment is vital," said sports psychologist, Dr. Harold Shinitzky. "So yes, they are facing game four, down 3-0, but the reality is other teams have come back from this, there's a precedent."
Dr. Shinitzky has worked with Olympic, professional, and college athletes for more than two decades.
It's clear, after a record-tying 62 wins in the regular season, the Bolts have the physical capacity to win games. At the same time, there may be a mindset missing, he says.
"When a team wins as much as the Lightning did this year, there's a tendency of comfort, a certain level of confidence that comes with it," Dr. Shinitzky explained. "It may, unfortunately, interfere with your ability to rise up to the occasion."
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are rising up to the occasion, who almost missed out on the postseason, until the last few days of the season.
"As they say, an injured animal is very dangerous," said Dr. Shinitzky. "When you have a team that has just barely made it into the playoffs, and they are just scrapping for every possible opportunity because every game was their last game to make it into the playoffs. They can continue with that and catch the better team off guard."
Dr. Shinitzky says the Bolts may be feeling some self-imposed pressure, and that mind game can actually change how they play come game time.
"If I'm still dwelling on the past, if I'm still emotionally frustrated, I don't move as fast, I don't process information as fast, because I'm stuck in my head," he explained.
Every thought could be the one that changes this series around.
"There are no three losses. There are no future games. It's this singular moment," said Dr. Shinitzky.
In the history of the NHL, 190 teams have trailed in a playoff series by three games to none, and only four of those teams rallied to win their series. The puck drops at 7 p.m. in Columbus Tuesday night.