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Archive for Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Tampa power prevails

Richards, Lightning crush Flyers, 4-2

May 19, 2004

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— One more victory and the Tampa Bay Lightning will be bound for the Stanley Cup finals.

With Brad Richards scoring twice on the power play and Nikolai Khabibulin stopping 28 shots, the Lightning beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2, Tuesday night, moving to the brink of winning the Eastern Conference title.

"The whole team really came out exceptionally hard and relentless in the first period. We played with a lot more desperation and passion," Richards said. "That got everybody going. It so happened I scored two goals, but it was a big effort by everybody."

Ruslan Fedotenko scored a third power-play goal, and Tim Taylor added an empty-netter off a pass from scoring champion Martin St. Louis to ensure Tampa Bay would take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Game 6 is Thursday night in Philadelphia, where the Flyers are 7-1 in the playoffs after splitting Games 3 and 4. Game 7, if necessary, will be Saturday night in Tampa.

"Of course we want to try to finish it, but I think some other people over there in Philly have some other idea about it," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "I think it's just been a fantastic series."

Neither team has put together consecutive wins. The Flyers were dominant in victories in Games 2 and 4, and the Lightning were equally impressive in taking the first, third and fifth games.

"We stress all the time how resilient our group is, and we'll dig deep again," Philadelphia captain Keith Primeau said. "We'll rally together and find a way. What makes our team special is we're going to push until there's no more pushing."

Khabibulin recovered from a shaky stretch in which he gave up two goals within 38 seconds to stand tall for Tampa Bay down the stretch. He stopped 15 shots -- half the number the Flyers attempted all night -- in the third period.

Primeau virtually was a one-man wrecking crew in the two games in Philadelphia, winning Game 4 with a short-handed goal and setting the tone for the physical play that the Flyers hope will take its toll on the smaller Lightning as the series moves into the late stages.

Philadelphia's Kim Johnsson, left, goaltender Robert Esche, center,
and Michal Handzus (26) watch Ruslan Fedotenko's goal for Tampa Bay
in the first period. The Lightning beat the Flyers, 4-2, Tuesday in
Tampa, Fla., taking a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven NHL playoff
series.

Philadelphia's Kim Johnsson, left, goaltender Robert Esche, center, and Michal Handzus (26) watch Ruslan Fedotenko's goal for Tampa Bay in the first period. The Lightning beat the Flyers, 4-2, Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., taking a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven NHL playoff series.

The Lightning felt if they were going to gain the upper hand, they had to slow down the Philadelphia star without getting away from their game, which is predicated on speed and controlling the puck, rather than outmuscling opponents.

Feeding off the energy of a sellout crowd of 21,517, Tampa Bay outshot the Flyers 18-8 in the opening period and took a 1-0 lead when Fedotenko tapped in a rebound after Philadelphia goaltender Robert Esche rejected Dan Boyle's shot from the point.

"That was one of the better periods we've had in the playoffs," Tortorella said.

Richards scored from the left circle just 24 seconds into the second period, then made it 3-0 when he beat Esche after Vincent Lecavalier won a faceoff against Primeau in the Flyers' defensive zone.

Cory Stillman slipped a pass to Richards in the slot, and the Tampa Bay center scored a mere three seconds into the power play.

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