TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Vincent Lecavalier insisted his playoff scoring slump was
no big deal.
Two goals and an assist in Tampa Bay's 4-0 victory over the Montreal
Canadiens on Friday night in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal
series didn't change the young star's perspective.
``It feels good, especially to get the first win. But it's one game. There's
still three left,'' Lecavalier said. `I'm happy tonight. The puck went in, but
we've got to keep on going.''
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday.
``You've got to give credit where credit is due,'' Canadiens coach Claude
Julien said. ``They played a great game. As bad as we played, and as well as
they did, you have to respect that. It was one of those things where Lecavalier
had some success. We expected this series was not going to be an easy one.''
Lecavalier, a native of Montreal who grew up idolizing the Canadiens, didn't
have a goal in 12 playoff games, dating to Game 4 of Tampa Bay's first-round
victory over Washington last year. He hadn't had an assist in seven games, but
fended off questions about the drought by saying he was happy as long as the
Lightning were winning.
Truth is, with goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin on top of his game, top-seeded
Tampa Bay hasn't missed Lecavalier's offense.
``It doesn't matter what me and Vinny did,'' said Lightning All-Star Martin
St. Louis, who had assists on Tampa Bay's first three goals. ``The bottom line
is we got the win. That's the most important thing.''
Khabibulin looked unbeatable again Friday night, stopping 21 shots to post
his fourth shutout of the playoffs.
The Canadiens didn't take their first shot until more than 8 minutes into
the game and Tampa Bay's aggressive forechecking limited Montreal to just five
shots in the final period, enabling Khabibulin to make it look easy.
``He's played really well and that's the kind of goaltending you need in the
playoffs,'' St. Louis said. ``There's no secret. You can play as well as you
can, but if you don't get the goaltending, it's tough.''
The seventh-seeded Canadiens entered the series coming off an emotional Game
7 road victory over second-seeded Boston, completing the first comeback from a
3-1 deficit in the team's storied history.
But with a week off after eliminating the Islanders from the first round in
five games, Tampa Bay was the fresher team _ and Khabibulin was much sharper in
goal than Montreal's Jose Theodore.
``I don't know if it's the effects of the last series or just being prepared
well enough again,'' Julien said. ``The one thing we do know is that we have to
Theodore gave up Tampa Bay's first goal to Ruslan Fedotenko when he was
caught out of position after bending down to pick up his stick early in the
second period. Lecavalier scored on a deflection late in the period, then made
it 3-0 when he sent a shot between Theodore's legs just under 4 minutes into
``I think everybody was surprised,'' Theodore said, recounting Fedotenko's
goal off a pass from St. Louis, who dug a loose puck out of the corner.
``We had the puck, and then all of a sudden we lost the puck. He passed it
to a guy alone. It happened so quick, I thought a lot of guys were caught by
Dimitry Afanasenkov scored to make it 4-0 and Julien yanked Theodore less
than a minute later, allowing backup Mathieu Garon to finish that last 11:54.
The Canadiens likened the game to a 3-0 loss to Boston in the opener of
their first-round series.
``We beat ourselves. There's no doubt about it. There's no other way to look
at it. We need to be a lot sharper next game,'' Montreal's Craig Rivet said.
Teammate Saku Koivu agreed.
``The first game in Boston,we just didn't show up,'' Koivu said, ``and we
didn't show up tonight.''