GAME: New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; Lightning lead 3-1.
TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EDT.
The Tampa Bay Lightning's top players are rolling, and the New York
Islanders appear powerless to stop the Eastern Conference's top-seeded team.
The Lightning look to close out their first-round series at home when they
take on the stumbling Islanders in Game 5.
Nikolai Khabibulin made 33 saves for his second straight shutout at Nassau
Coliseum, and Martin St. Louis' third goal in two games pushed Tampa Bay to
within one victory of the second round with a 3-0 win Wednesday night.
"We are getting better and better as the playoffs go on," forward Tim
Held without a point in the first two games of the series, St. Louis, the
NHL regular-season scoring leader, has led the Lightning offensively in the
last three contests. The speedy forward set the tone Wednesday with a
short-handed goal in the first period.
Ruslan Fedotenko also scored, and Fredrik Modin's third goal of the series
early in the third period ended any real hopes of New York returning to the St.
Pete Times Forum with the series tied.
Instead, the Lightning will be looking to finish off a dominating
performance against a team that has given them plenty of trouble over the past
"Winning that game on Monday was big and to back it up tonight, it's even
bigger," St. Louis said. "Monday means nothing if you don't back it up."
Lightning center Brad Richards added two assists Wednesday, giving him five
points in the last two games.
A major source of Tampa Bay's confidence has been the play of Khabibulin,
who hasn't allowed a goal since Jason Blake scored at 3:36 of the third period
in Game 2, a 3-0 Islanders victory. Blake's second goal of that game came with
Khabibulin pulled for an extra attacker in the third.
The Islanders won three of four regular-season games against the Lightning
this season, but couldn't win - or score - at home. New York went 25-11-4-1 at
Nassau Coliseum during the regular season.
"We're making it too easy for Tampa, we're wasting energy on ourselves,"
Islanders captain Michael Peca said. "Everybody has to have commitment, and if
they don't, I'll be the first one to get in their face and tell them how
disappointed I am."
As expected, New York came out skating aggressively in the first period of
Game 4 in an attempt to grab the lead, but St. Louis' goal at 10:30 quieted a
crowd that had little to cheer about during the two games on Long Island.
Now Isles fans may have to wait until October to cheer for their team again.
Each game of this series has ended with a 3-0 score, and with Khabibulin
frustrating New York, the Islanders might not have any more success generating
offense Friday than they did in Games 1, 3 and 4.
"This was a must win for them," St. Louis said. "We knew they were going
to empty the tank and we have to empty the tank ourselves, and more. You don't
want to give them a chance, you don't want to give them any breathing area."
The Islanders, who had never been shut out three times in a series, need
young goalie Rick DiPietro playing with confidence Friday. He did that in Game
2, making 22 saves for the shutout, but looked shaky Wednesday night, missing
Modin's slap shot with his glove despite getting a clear look at the puck.
It's doubtful the Islanders have much chance of extending the series, let
alone rallying to win it, without a contribution from Alexei Yashin. The big
center has been held without a point, hounded by Taylor's checking line
throughout the series. Yashin has 11 shots on goal in the four games, but has
hardly been a factor.
"They've been outshooting us, but I still think that we're outchancing
them," Taylor said.
Tampa Bay forward Cory Stillman sustained a lower body injury on his first
shift Wednesday and didn't return. He is listed as questionable for Game 5.
If New York manages to keep its season alive Friday, the series would return
to Nassau Coliseum for Game 6 the next night.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Islanders - 91 points; 8th seed. Lightning - 106 points;
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Islanders - Blake, 2 goals; Mark Parrish, 2 assists;
Blake, Parrish and Janne Niinimaa, 2 points; Steve Webb, 6 PIM. Lightning -
Modin and St. Louis, 3 goals; Richards, 4 assists; Modin and Richards, 5
points; St. Louis, 8 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Islanders - Power play: 7.1 percent (1 for 14).
Penalty killing: 88.9 percent (16 for 18). Lightning - Power play: 11.1 percent
(2 for 18). Penalty killing: 92.9 percent (13 for 14).
GOALTENDERS: Islanders - DiPietro (1-3, 1 SO, 2.01 GAA); Garth Snow (no
appearances). Lightning - Khabibulin (3-1, 3, 0.50); John Grahame (no