Showing great poise in their first trip to the NHL semifinals, the Lightning shrugged off a 6-2 loss in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series to take Game 3 in convincing fashion, 4-1 Thursday night. Tampa Bay leads Philadelphia 2-1— leaving the Lightning just two wins from the Stanley Cup finals.
“We know that they are going to be a lot better,” Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk said Friday. “We know that their desperation level is going to go to a new level and we have to be ready for that. Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson in Game 2.”
The Lightning won the series opener at home 3-1 before their eight-game winning streak was shattered in Game 2. Tampa Bay, 5-0 on the road in these playoffs, handed the Flyers their first postseason loss in Philadelphia in Game 3.
“We didn’t come here for a split. We came here to win two games,” Andreychuk said.
After two days off between Games 2 and 3, the Lightning and Flyers will have just a day-and-a-half before playing again Saturday.
Philadelphia will need an early jump in Game 4 to try to feed off the energy of the crowd that will be decked out in the home color for the second straight game of the new “Orange Crush.”
A power-play goal would really help Philadelphia, 1-for-16 in this series and 2-for-31 over the past seven games.
The Flyers have scored first in 11 of 14 playoff games but are 0-3 when they trail 1-0. Philadelphia had outscored opponents 16-3 in the first period but that trend was quickly reversed when the Lightning connected twice 2:24 apart before Game 3 was 16 minutes old.
“Our first periods have been really good with the exception of (Thursday),” forward Jeremy Roenick said. “It’s probably been the most positive thing about our playoffs. We’ve really come out and jumped on teams quickly.
“That can’t change, especially in our own building.”
The Lightning also took the juice out of the Flyers fans when Vincent Lecavalier took a perfect pass from Martin St. Louis and scored a breakaway goal that gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead just 43 seconds after Keith Primeau brought Philadelphia within one.
“We went up 2-0, but I think they still came out and showed that they were ready to play,” Lecavalier said.
An ill-advised pinch at the right point by defenseman Danny Markov allowed St. Louis—the NHL regular-season scoring champion—to find a passing lane and get the puck to Lecavalier.
If only that was the worst thing to happen to a Philadelphia defenseman, the Flyers would be thrilled. Instead, the blue line corps is dealing with yet another major injury.
Ragnarsson was struck on the finger during a follow-through of a shot by Tampa Bay’s Fredrik Modin early in the first period Thursday. Ragnarsson’s finger broke so badly that he needed an operation Friday to repair it.
“It’s the same thing that has been going on all year. We’ll have to get over it and get used to it,” Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Desjardins re-broke his right arm on the eve of the playoffs, and Johnsson missed three games of the second round against Toronto with a broken hand.
The Flyers have been so thin on defense they have been using converted forward Sami Kapanen there. Hitchcock said struggling rookie Joni Pitkanen, scratched the previous two games, will go back into the lineup in place of Ragnarsson.
“He’s definitely a great defenseman and tough to play against,” Lecavalier said of Ragnarsson. “We’ll definitely take advantage of that.”
Hitchcock said he will set up his defense pairings based on nationality, putting Russians Vladimir Malakhov and Markov together, Swedes Kim Johnsson and Mattias Timander in a pairing, and Pitkanen and Kapanen in a Finnish grouping.
All the reshuffling on defense might make things that much tougher for goalie Robert Esche, who had his first poor game of the playoffs. Cory Stillman beat him with a long, unobstructed wrist shot that went in off his glove. Former Flyers forward Ruslan Fedotenko made it 2-0 with a drive that also hit Esche’s glove before finding the net.
“In the long run this will be good for Eschey,” Hitchcock said. “This will be good for him to go through something like this. He knows he has to step up and play well.”