PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Even Philadelphia's notoriously hostile
crowd didn't bother the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 24 shots, helping the Lightning
defeat the Flyers 4-1 on Thursday night and take a 2-1 lead in the
Eastern Conference finals.
"This building is tough to play in. The fans are always yelling
at you," Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. "But we keep it
simple on the road. We don't try to put on a show. We just battle
and try to limit the mistakes."
Game 4 is Saturday in Philadelphia.
The Lightning quickly rebounded from a 6-2 loss in Game 2,
scoring two goals in a span of 2:24 to take control in the first
Robert Esche, who had been superb in the playoffs, failed to
catch one of the shots and let the other bounce off his glove.
The Flyers dominated the second period, but couldn't break
through the "Bulin Wall" as Khabibulin made 13 saves.
"Some shots I didn't see, but guys stepped up and blocked them
and they cleared a few rebounds," Khabibulin said. "That makes
life a lot easier for a goalie."
After Keith Primeau's goal cut it to 2-1 and energized the
sellout crowd in the opening minute of the third period, the
Lightning scored 43 seconds later to silence the fans.
"That goal took the air out of us and the building," Flyers
coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Tampa Bay has won six of seven against Philadelphia this year,
including all four meetings in the regular season, and nine of 10,
dating to last year.
Stillman gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead with a wrist shot from
just outside the left circle that sailed under Esche's glove.
"There's no disguising it, it was a bad goal," Esche said.
Fedotenko, a former Flyer, made it 2-0 less than three minutes
later with a power-play goal. His slap shot hit Esche's glove and
trickled into the net.
Primeau scored his sixth playoff goal just 36 seconds into the
third period to cut the deficit in half. But Lecavalier quickly
answered with a breakaway goal.
"You want to get life from a goal, but they turn around and
score right away and that makes it tough," Flyers forward Mark Recchi said.
Richards put the game away with his sixth playoff goal almost
halfway through the third period.
After a physical third period Monday night in which the teams
combined for 25 penalties, both teams controlled their emotions
until a couple fights broke out with :04 remaining.
Primeau twice knocked Lightning defenseman Cory Sarich off his
feet with consecutive hard hits in the second period. Primeau then
picked up a loose puck and centered a pass to Radovan Somik, who
hit the post.
"We weren't as tenacious on the puck in the first period,"
Early in the first period, some of the frenzied, orange-clad
fans began shouting, "Shut your yap" at Lightning coach John
Tortorella, who made the same comment to Hitchcock on Wednesday.
Tortorella was upset that Hitchcock yelled at Lightning players
in Game 2. An angry Hitchcock said his players are being slashed on
the backs of their legs, and he won't keep quiet about it.
"We have two quality teams here. Both teams are trying to get
to a bigger spot and the road is not big enough for both,"
Esche finished with 22 saves in his worst outing of the
playoffs. He stoned Fredrik Modin just over a minute into the game
with a glove save on a point-blank shot from the slot, but it was
one of the only highlights for the goalie.
Flyers defenseman Marcus Ragnarsson left early in the first
period with a hand injury. The extent of the injury should be known
Friday. ... The Flyers have scored first in 11 of their 14 playoff
games. They are 0-3 when they don't score first. ... Fedotenko was
traded along with two second-round picks to Tampa Bay for the
fourth overall pick in the 2002 entry draft. The Flyers chose
defenseman Joni Pitkanen with the pick. Pitkanen was a healthy
scratch the last two games. ... Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina
committed three penalties that led to power plays for Philadelphia.
... The Flyers were 0-for-5 on the power play.