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TORONTO — The Tampa Bay Lightning have been here before.

Down 3-1 in their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Maple Leafs. On the brink of elimination in Game 5 on Thursday. And yet, the Lightning see no reason to panic.

After all, Tampa Bay didn’t win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021 or reach last year’s Final without knowing how to weather adversity — and answer their critics.

“Most people picked the Leafs to beat us,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper on Thursday. “They’re up 3-1, so people are sitting there saying, ‘Well, we told you so.’ I look at it and say, ‘We’ve had some tough lapses in games.’ And I think for the most part, we’ve done a lot of what we wanted to do. I think that we’ve scored enough goals; we’ve just given up too many.

“If we keep doing what we’re doing, but just do it 2% better, I think some of these breaks that maybe have not gone our way we can push to go our way.”

The Lightning have, in many ways, controlled much of the series. Tampa pummeled Toronto on the road with a 7-3 victory in Game 1, and the Lightning led both Game 3 and Game 4 deep into the third period before those aforementioned lapses allowed Toronto to come back and earn a pair of overtime wins.

That’s all in the past now as Tampa Bay’s focus shifts to simply extending its season one outing at a time. And there’s no shortage of belief in their ranks. The Lightning overcame two series deficits in the first round — also against Toronto — just last season.

“We have a lot of confidence in this group,” said forward Pat Maroon. “I think just the past few years of what we’ve gone through as a group, we know we’ve been in this situation before, and we just have to go out there and play our game. And we have full confidence in our group that we can do that. You can only control tonight. Go out there and give everything you can.”

Tampa Bay and Toronto have been evenly matched throughout the first four meetings, averaging over four goals per game on either side and high shot volumes (31.5 per game for the Lightning; 33 for the Leafs). A key injury to defenseman Erik Cernak — who was elbowed in the head by Toronto forward Michael Bunting in Game 1 and hasn’t played since — continues to hurt the Lightning blue line. Bunting was subsequently suspended for three games. But the Lightning aren’t leaning on excuses.

“The confidence level is we’ve done it before,” Cooper said. “Less than a year ago, we had a lot of these adversity games.”

“We’ve done a really good job defensively,” Maroon added. “Just those mental breakdowns have cost us a little bit but we’re fine. We’re all in a good headspace here.”

The Lightning have had two days to rest and reflect. Whatever happens Thursday will be about their history and not Toronto’s. The Leafs have infamously lost their last six playoff series and haven’t advanced to the second round since 2004.

What matters is Toronto has won three straight games in this series. Now, it’s time for Tampa Bay to try doing the same.

“The fine line is sitting here saying well, we’ve done it before [so] it’s just naturally going to happen again,” Cooper said. “What you have to get inside the guys is just remembering the feeling and how hard it was to actually accomplish [those comebacks] because the enemy’s got a vote; that’s the Leafs. They’re going to have a say in what goes on here too. You have to make sure that it’s not a given.”

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Down 3-1 to Leafs, experienced Lightning in ‘good headspace’