Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Philly hopes to extend its success at home
VOORHEES, N.J. -- For the second time in three days, the Philadelphia Flyers took a break.
Their Eastern Conference finals opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, also had Tuesday off -- choosing to take time to recover from a 6-2 thrashing that snapped their eight-game playoff winning streak and evened the best-of-seven series 1-1.
But the older Flyers needed the rest.
After falling behind by two goals in the series opener Saturday, Philadelphia didn't have the jump to make a comeback against the quick Lightning.
The Flyers were playing just three days after eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs from a tough second-round series, while Tampa Bay was back on the ice after an eight-day layoff that followed its sweep of the Montreal Canadiens.
A day off Sunday gave the Flyers the jump they needed for Game 2, and they broke out with an even-strength goal, a power-play goal and a short-handed goal in the first period.
"The difference in the two games was that we were able to score on our odd-man rushes in Game 2 and we didn't score in Game 1," Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock said Tuesday. "We're playing pretty well."
When the series resumes Thursday, the Flyers will put their 6-0 home playoff record on the line against the Lightning, 4-0 on the road in this postseason.
"It's a process; it's not one particular thing," Lightning coach John Tortorella said of learning to win on the road. "Once you start believing you can do it, you start learning how to do it."
Along with a stellar record at home, the Flyers have experience on their side. Philadelphia's core group of veterans -- featuring captain Keith Primeau, John LeClair and Mark Recchi -- reached the conference finals in 2000.
The Lightning, the top team in the East during the regular season, hadn't won a playoff series before last year. Now they have to bounce back from a blowout loss that cut into the invincibility of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and the rest of the team, which had been undefeated since Game 2 of the first round against the New York Islanders.
Khabibulin allowed just 10 goals in 10 games as the Lightning went 9-1 in the playoffs against New York, Montreal and Philadelphia.
But the "Bulin Wall" allowed three goals on five shots in the first 11:17 Monday and four goals on 12 shots before he was chased just 6:02 into the second period.
"They'll try to score goals in many different ways," Tortorella said. "We just have to play better and we have to play harder."
Tortorella doesn't see the need to talk to his goalie before Game 3, when Khabibulin returns to the nets.
"I won't have to say a word," Tortorella said Tuesday during a conference call from Florida. "Our team understands what Nik is, Nik understands our team and we understand the situation we're in. We've been in it before.
"These guys are pro athletes. Sometimes you need to show them the respect as far as believing in them."
A year ago, Tortorella started backup John Grahame over the sometimes-fragile-psyche'd Khabibulin when the Lightning faced elimination in Game 5 of the second round against New Jersey.
If the Flyers can get off to another quick start Thursday, Khabibulin's confidence might be shaken further -- leaving him looking over his shoulder toward Grahame, who relieved him Monday.
There was plenty of blame to go around, with 14 of 18 Lightning skaters posting a minus rating.
"I think it's a pretty good wakeup call for us that we are going to have to play a lot better, we are going to have to play with a lot more desperation to beat that club over there," 40-year-old forward Dave Andreychuk said. "I would like to get on a flight right now and go play."
He'll have to wait a little longer. The Lightning won't get to Philadelphia until Wednesday afternoon, after a morning practice at home.
As satisfying as the win was, Hitchcock had one more thing to be happy about Tuesday after his rant over video replays he said were used to incite the crowd.
Constant replays were showed of Donald Brashear's hit on Lightning forward Tim Taylor that didn't result in a penalty Tampa fans felt was deserved. The in-game crew violated NHL policy and was reprimanded Tuesday, leading to an assurance from the team that it won't happen again.