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Archive for Sunday, May 23, 2004

Lightning eliminate Flyers

Tampa Bay wins series, moves on to Stanley Cup

May 23, 2004

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— Dave Andreychuk was as happy for his teammates as he was for himself.

The Tampa Bay captain finally is headed to the Stanley Cup finals in his 22nd NHL season, and the rest of the Lightning are making their first trip, too.

"Obviously you dream about this day and for it to happen, and you don't know how you're going to feel," the 40-year-old Andreychuk said Saturday night. "I don't really feel relief. I feel excitement more than anything else."

The Lightning beat Philadelphia, 2-1, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, sending Tampa Bay into the Cup finals against Calgary, who won the Western Conference title in six games over San Jose.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in Tampa.

"I feel excitement for what's happened to our club, the improvements we've made in the last three years, and everybody in that locker room should be pretty proud of the situation we're in," Andreychuk said.

"Our job is not done yet. We feel that this is another step. We have to be focused. Obviously, we can enjoy this tonight, but then we've got to get back to work."

Andreychuk has played more regular-season games (1,597) than any other active player without appearing in the Cup finals. Two other teams he played on -- Toronto in 1993 and Colorado in 2000 -- lost Game 7 of the conference finals.

"It's great to finally see him get a chance at the Cup," said forward Fredrik Modin, who scored one of Tampa Bay's goals. "But at the same time, we are all pretty excited for ourselves, too."

Ruslan Fedotenko also scored for Tampa Bay, and Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 22 shots as the Lightning rebounded from a disappointing loss in Game 6.

The Flyers were denied their first trip to the finals since 1997, but didn't go down without a fight after rallying to tie Game 6 late in regulation and winning it in overtime. Keith Primeau and Simon Gagne saved Philadelphia's season Thursday, and goalie Robert Esche kept Game 7 from getting out of hand.

"Right now, I'm just disappointed for the players," Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Back in January and February we weren't a very good hockey club against Tampa, and now we got to this stage."

Fedotenko's deflection on the power play gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead late in the first period. Modin scored 4:57 into the second to make it 2-0 and whip a sellout crowd of 22,117 for Tampa Bay's first Game 7 into a frenzy.

Kim Johnsson's goal trimmed Philadelphia deficit to 2-1 midway through the second, and Esche stopped 17 shots in the period to keep the Flyers in the game.

Neither team managed to win two straight in the series, just the 11th matchup in NHL history to go to Game 7 with the teams alternating victories in the first six.

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