Flyers rip into Tampa

Posted: Tuesday, May 11, 2004

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Philadelphia Flyers made Nikolai Khabibulin look ordinary, maybe even worse.

Playing with a greater sense of urgency after losing the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals, the Flyers evened the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night by proving the Bulin Wall only seems impenetrable.

Philadelphia scored three times in the first 12 minutes and finished off Khabibulin with a fourth goal early in the second period. The Lightning pulled their goalie rather than risk damaging his confidence for the remainder of the series.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Philadelphia, where the Flyers are 6-0 in the postseason. The Western Conference finals will resume Tuesday night, with Calgary trying to take a 2-0 lead in San Jose.

Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock expects Khabibulin to revert to the form that helped Tampa Bay breeze through the first two rounds of the playoffs and win Game 1 of the conference finals.

''This is the playoffs. You learn to just drop it and move on,'' Hitchcock said.

That's exactly what the Flyers did after the opener.

Philadelphia dominated the first half of Game 1, but faltered in the final 30 minutes because of defensive miscues and an inability to score more than once against Khabibulin, who had allowed 10 in 10 games before Monday night.

''We knew we had to win road games to win this series, but we had to drop it and move on from a pretty disappointing Game 1 loss,'' Hitchcock said. ''That's just what the playoffs are about.''

John LeClair, Mark Recchi and Sami Kapanen scored in the first period, and Robert Esche stopped 29 shots. Vladimir Malakhov's goal ended Khabibulin's night with 13:58 left in the second.

''I think it's pretty obvious why I pulled him,'' Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. ''There's no sense of scarring him up any more.''

The Lightning are confident Khabibulin, 9-2 in the playoffs, will bounce back in Game 3.

''It's not total goals, it's one game,'' Tampa Bay center Brad Richards said. ''You don't get to the Eastern Conference finals and play against a team like that and expect to just waltz through the series.''

In addition to stopping Tampa Bay's eight-game winning streak in the playoffs, the Flyers halted an eight-game slide against the Lightning.

that included four losses during the regular season and a 3-1 setback in Game 1 Saturday.

Ruslan Fedotenko scored midway through the third period with Tampa Bay down 6-0. NHL scoring champion Martin St. Louis added a power-play goal with 2:42 to go.

''We know we were awful, so we can draw on that,'' Richards said. ''We can't get any worse.''

Even though the Flyers weren't facing elimination, they considered Monday night a must-win situation -- in part because while they're unbeaten at home in the playoffs, this is the first series they began on the road.

The sense of urgency was evident from the start when LeClair scored on the first shot of the game. The goal ended his 16-game postseason scoring drought, dating to last season. He had one assist in the Flyers' first 12 games in these playoffs.

''It's not about me. It's about the win,'' LeClair said. ''It's one game. Now we're going home.''

Michal Handzus scored against Tampa Bay backup goalie John Grahame late in the second period and Mattias Timander added an unassisted goal less than four minutes into the third period to make it 6-0.

The loss was Tampa Bay's first since Game 2 of its first-round series against the New York Islanders. The Lightning responded to that defeat by winning the next two on the road.

''It doesn't change our mind-set. It's a 1-1 series,'' Tortorella said. ''We've been in this situation before. We didn't expect to be winning four straight.''

Notes: Philadelphia was 0-for-18 on the power play before Recchi's goal. ... The Flyers have outscored opponents 16-3 in the first period during the playoffs. ... The Lightning outshot the Flyers 31-29.

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