TAMPA, FLORIDA (TICKER) —Dave Andreychuk has scored in pressure situations throughout his career. Now he’s doing it for a team that has encountered few pressure situations.
As one of the few Tampa Bay players with postseason experience, Andreychuk serves as captain. His latest goal moved the Lightning within one point of first-place Washington in the Southeast Division and into a sixth-place tie with the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference.
“The games are different,” said Andreychuk, who has been in the playoffs 16 times in his 21-year career. “The tension mounts. Every play is magnified, every goal is magnified.”
Andreychuk has scored 39 goals in 128 postseason games with Buffalo, Toronto, New Jersey and Colorado. And most of his teammates were kids when he made his NHL debut on October 6, 1982.
“You make your name in the playoffs,” said Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella, who served as an assistant in Buffalo for nearly four seasons while Andreychuk played for the Sabres. “It’s what you do in those playoff situations that gets remembered. Desperation is a very easy word to use, but you have to understand what it means. Each game, each shift, you have to be ready.”
Andreychuk’s goal ended a seven-game drought and gave him sole possession of 12th place on the all-time list.
Although the Lightning have lost once in their last seven games (4-1-2), Andreychuk’s tally helped them erase any lingering effects from Sunday’s 4-1 setback to Buffalo.
“It would be nice if that was the final lesson,” Andreychuk said. “With 19 games to go, we could put ourselves in a position where the pressure is not on us the last few games.”
“The Lightning were frustrated,” Ducks coach Mike Babcock said. “They gave up a game against Buffalo Sunday night. They had strong saves from their goaltender tonight. They created a lot of turnovers through the neutral zone and we didn’t generate much speed. This is their building, they were a little bit hungrier than we were.”
It was the only goal Khabibulin needed as he ran his personal unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1) following a 10-game skid. He set the tone for his third shutout of the season early when he stopped rookie Alexei Smirnov.
“Nik looked a lot more comfortable and I think we made it easy on him also,” Tampa Bay’s Tim Taylor said. “As a team, we played a lot better in front of him and put him in better situations.”
Khabibulin, who posted his first shutout in nearly two months, faced nine shots apiece in the first two periods and six in the third.
One win from matching last season’s total, the Lightning (26-22-10-5) are in playoff contention for the second time in their history. They got an insurance goal late in the second period from Nikita Alexeev.
The 21-year-old Russian provided Khabibulin with some breathing room with his fourth goal, finishing off a 2-on-1 by converting defenseman Dan Boyle’s pass.
The Ducks, who were trying to move nine games above .500 for the first time in team history, lost for the just the seventh time in their last 22 games (14-6-1-1).
Coming off Sunday’s 4-0 blanking of Carolina, Gerber got a second straight start and made 24 saves.