PLAYOFF SERIES: Stanley Cup finals; tied 1-1.
Needing a win to avoid going to Calgary facing a 2-0 deficit, the Lightning outworked, outmuscled and outscored the Flames in Game 2 on Thursday, evening the series with an impressive 4-1 victory.
After allowing four goals on 19 shots in the opener, Khabibulin bounced back with a strong 18-save performance, helping the Lightning improve to 5-0 following losses in this year’s playoffs.
Khabibulin isn’t the only goalie in this series that had displayed the ability to shake off poor games and come back strong. While Khabibulin is 5-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average after a defeat in the postseason, Kiprusoff is 7-0 this season in games after he’s surrendered at least four goals.
While there were several factors that contributed to Calgary’s Game 2 loss, defenseman Rhett Warrener faulted his team’s work ethic.
“We weren’t working hard enough,” he said. “If you don’t work as hard as the other team, then they get the control and they get the momentum. That’s the story of the game. They outworked us in the first and got us on our heels instead of us taking it to them.”
The most important goal of Game 2 was Ruslan Fedotenko’s team-leading 10th at 7:10 of the first period that staked Tampa Bay to a 1-0 lead. Calgary had not allowed a first-period goal in an NHL-record nine straight playoff games.
Including the first two games of this series, the team that has scored first has won 65 of 84 games in this postseason—almost an 80 percent success rate.
“It’s big,” Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis said. “Up a goal in the Stanley Cup finals, that’s important. The stats don’t lie. We talk about it all the time.”
With the outcome no longer in doubt, the teams combined for 84 penalty minutes in the final 11 1/2 minutes, including a pair of rare fights in the finals. That physical play should set up a heated Game 3.
“Obviously, we weren’t happy with the way the game was going,” Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. “Emotions get going when you look at the scoreboard and you’re losing in the Stanley Cup finals and that’s what happens.”
After Iginla was the dominant player in Game 1, Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier took over that role Thursday, picking up two assists while playing a physical game from the outset.
“It wasn’t the moves that were the most important part of his game. I thought his presence was the most important thing,” Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. “I thought he showed a physical presence, and you could just see him maturing, saying to the team, `Follow me.’ ”
Splitting the first two games on the road is acceptable for most teams, but the Flames have not fared well at home in the playoffs, losing five of nine games while scoring six goals in their last four at the Saddledome.
The Lightning are 5-2 on the road in the postseason, but lost their last two at Philadelphia in the conference finals.
The Lightning are 29-0-2 this season when Richards scores a goal, including 7-0 in the playoffs.
“I can’t explain why that is,” Richards said. “I don’t even want to talk about it.”
Game 4 is Monday at Calgary.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Lightning - 1st seed; beat New York Islanders 4-1, East quarterfinals; beat Montreal Canadiens 4-0, East semifinals; beat Philadelphia Flyers 4-3, East finals. Flames - 6th seed; beat Vancouver Canucks 4-3, West quarterfinals; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-2, West semifinals; beat San Jose Sharks 4-2, West finals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Fedotenko, 10 goals; St. Louis, 14 assists and 21 points; Chris Dingman, 63 PIM. Flames - Iginla, 11 goals and 18 points; Craig Conroy, 11 assists, Chris Simon, 72 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Lightning - Power play: 20.0 percent (16 for 80). Penalty killing: 88.9 percent (56 for 63). Flames - Power play: 11.6 percent (11 for 95). Penalty killing: 84.2 percent (85 for 101).