TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Martin St. Louis was more than happy to surrender the
spotlight to Nikolai Khabibulin.
And Andre Roy and Fredrik Modin, for that matter.
``We've got to be honest with ourselves. This wasn't our best game. Khabby
was the difference,'' St. Louis said after the Tampa Bay Lightning opened the
playoffs Thursday night with a 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders.
``We can definitely improve. Hopefully we're on top of our game on Saturday.
We don't want to put that pressure on Khabby every night.''
With their goaltender rejecting everything the Islanders had to offer, the
Lightning didn't need a big night from St. Louis, the NHL scoring champion this
The All-Star right wing was limited to just two shots _ both in the third
period _ and misfired on his best scoring chance when he hit the crossbar on a
breakaway in the first period.
Not to worry, Modin scored two goals and the little-used Roy gave Tampa Bay
an unexpected lift with an unassisted goal that snapped a scoreless tie against
Rick DiPietro, New York's young and confident goaltender.
``It's not about who scores goals right now. It's about winning and
losing,'' St. Louis said. ``If we go all the way and Andre has 10 goals, then
Shrugging off questions about past postseason struggles, Khabibulin stopped
30 shots against the Islanders.
Khabibulin was 5-4-1 in his last 10 regular-season starts, but reverted to
the form that helped the Lightning emerge as the league's hottest team in
February and March. It was his first playoff shutout since 1997.
``We have to play better, but Nik was outstanding,'' Lightning coach John
Tortorella said. ``Obviously he was the key piece. That was one of his better
The Lightning set franchise records for victories (46) and points (106) on
their way to earning the top seed in the East.
Still, the eighth-seeded Islanders' success against the Lightning during the
regular season, and Khabibulin's history of playoff struggles, are factors that
could make the best-of-seven matchup very tight.
The Lightning will host Game 2 on Saturday.
New York won three of four from Tampa Bay during the regular season with
DiPietro going 2-1 and allowing four goals in three games. The 22-year-old
goalie had only 15 minutes of playoff experience before Thursday, and he was
done in by turnovers in front of him that set up Tampa Bay's first two goals.
Islanders defenseman Eric Cairns gave away the puck both times _ first
trying a pass across the ice that Roy stole before scoring, then losing the
puck as he skated around the back of the net and leaving Modin in position to
score midway through the second period.
``We all make mistakes,'' New York coach Steve Stirling said. ``If we had
the power play going earlier, we might get a goal and it may not have
Roy, who had one goal in 33 regular-season games, scored on his second shift
of the night after playing just 44 seconds in the opening period. It was his
first playoff goal in 13 games.
Modin added his second goal on a deflection in the third period.
The Islanders outshot the Lightning 21-10 in the first two periods, but were
unable to take advantage of five power-play opportunities against Khabibulin,
who was benched in the final playoff game last year when Tampa Bay was
eliminated by New Jersey in the conference semifinals.
Tampa Bay managed just 18 shots against DiPietro, who four years ago was the
first goaltender to be selected No. 1 overall in the NHL draft.
``It just seemed like we couldn't get a break,'' New York center Dave
``I thought we played a pretty good hockey game. A couple of mistakes cost
us. We're down 1-0. But like they say, it's a best of seven. We've just got to
play the same way and maybe capitalize a little bit more and we'll be OK.''