Khabibulin was again at his best when the Lightning are in trouble, staying undefeated following a loss in carrying Tampa Bay to a series-tying 1-0 victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final Monday night.
Brad Richards scored during a two-man advantage in the opening three minutes, his fourth game-winning goal following a Lightning loss, and Khabibulin made the all-important goal stand up by tying Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff with his fifth playoff shutout this spring. He had 29 saves.
Richards’ 10th goal of the postseason was his seventh game-winner, breaking the record he previously shared with Joe Sakic (1996) and Joe Nieuwendyk (1999). The Lightning are 30-0-2 overall and 8-0 in the playoffs when Richard scores.
The Lightning would have been in desperate straits if they had gone down 3-1 going into Game 5 at home Thursday, as only one team—the 1942 Maple Leafs against the Red Wings—has overcome that disadvantage in the final. It didn’t help they were without two key regulars, forward Ruslan Fedotenko and defensemen Pavel Kubina, who were injured in Calgary’s 3-0 victory Saturday.
But the Lightning have been at their best when cornered, going 6-0 after a loss while outscoring their opponents 18-5. They also kept alternating wins and losses, something they’ve done in every game since splitting the first two games of the Eastern Conference final against Philadelphia.
Even without the injured Fedotenko, who has 10 playoff goals, and Kubina, who plays an average of 24 minutes per game, Tampa Bay pressured from the start, something it couldn’t do in Game 3. It paid off with the opening goal— a big momentum lift given that the team scoring first has won every game in the series.
Calgary also tried to establish its physical, hard-checking style immediately, just as it did in wearing down the Lightning in Game 3, but Chris Clark (cross checking) and Mike Commodore (holding) both drew penalties just 1:52 in.
Tampa Bay, 0-for-3 on the power play during the first period Saturday, took advantage of the 5-on-3 advantage with Richards powering a one-timer from just above the hash mark past Kiprusoff as the goalie was screened by Vincent Lecavalier. It was only the second time in 12 games Calgary has allowed a goal in the first period.
It was another good omen for the Lightning, who are 12-2 when scoring first.
Still, Calgary did everything but score in the first period before an electric, all-in-red crowd of 19,221 that began cheering an hour before the game. The Flames had 12 shots in the period, 10 more than in Game 3, and even had a good chance short-handed late in the period when Ville Nieminen got loose on a breakaway only to have the puck skip off his stick before he could get off a back-hander.
Khabibulin also gave the Lightning a scare in the final minute of the period, nearly muffing the puck as it skidded down the ice toward him, forcing him to abruptly close his pads to stop it. It was about his only mistake of the night.
Calgary was held to five shots in the second period, but stepped up the pressure in the third period as it desperately tried to hold onto the home-ice advantage. Two of the final three games, if necessary, will be in Tampa.
But the Flames were at a big disadvantage in the final 4:13 as Nieminen was called for a five-minute major penalty for ramming Lecavalier into the boards.
Kiprusoff was nearly as sharp as Khabibulin, but had almost no chance on thegoal by Richards. He has allowed only six goals in the four games.
Calgary star Jarome Iginla was held without a goal for only the second time in seven games. … Calgary again fell below .500 at home (5-6) after winning its previous two at the Saddledome. … Tampa Bay ended a three-game road losing streak and is 6-3. … The Lightning are 14-1 when leading after two periods. … Calgary was shut out for only the second time in 23 playoffgames.