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Philadelphia Flyers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning.

PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference finals; Lightning lead 1-0.

TIME: Monday, 7:30 p.m. EDT.

A long layoff did little to affect the Tampa Bay Lightning's confidence and poise as they rolled to their eighth straight playoff victory.

The top-seeded Lightning will now be looking to take a 2-0 lead, and beat the Philadelphia Flyers for the sixth straight time when the Eastern Conference finals resume at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Tampa Bay continued what has been a steady march toward the Stanley Cup finals with another solid win, 3-1 in the series opener Saturday. Brad Richards, Dave Andreychuk and Chris Dingman scored and Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 19 shots for the Lightning, who improved to 9-1 in this year's playoffs.

The Lightning appeared to have lost little of the poise and calm that have been characteristic of their postseason despite not playing since April 29, when they finished off a sweep of Montreal.

"I think, overall, if you ask a lot of guys, I don't think they felt as good as they thought they might," Richards said. "But at the same time, as the game went on, I think our game kind of calmed down and we played a little bit better."

Relegated to simulating game-like situations in practice until Philadelphia clinched its second-round victory over Toronto on Tuesday, the Lightning kept the Flyers in check with their speed and defensive-zone coverage.

Tampa Bay also kept Khabibulin's workload relatively light with their usual sound positioning and speed, holding down the Flyers' shot total.

"I think we created enough opportunities. They defended the front of the net well," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They had a goals-against average under one. That's pretty impressive. They obviously know how to play defense."

The Lightning also got a break when the Flyers had an apparent goal by Sami Kapanen six minutes into a scoreless game wiped out by a goaltender interference call against Keith Primeau, who fell on a breakaway and took out Khabibulin. Kapanen put the puck in after the collision, but the goal was disallowed and Primeau was assessed a goalie interference penalty.

Khabibulin, perhaps the major source of Tampa Bay's confidence in this postseason, then took over. He allowed only Michal Handzus' rebound goal at 6:48 of the second that tied the score. That goal was just the 10th that Khabibulin has allowed in 10 playoff games.

"I thought our guys handled themselves very well in getting themselves settled," Lightning coach John Tortorella said.

Richards snapped the 1-1 tie with 6:26 left in the second period and Dingman made it 3-1 seven minutes into the third.

Outscored 21-9 in the five straight losses to Tampa Pay, Philadelphia needs to quickly find a way to end a streak that could get into the Flyers' heads if they head home trailing 2-0.

"I'm definitely not discouraged," said Flyers goaltender Robert Esche, who stopped 14 shots. "We didn't come in here by no stretch of the imagination assuming it would go four games, and I don't think they did either."

It's possible that the Flyers were still thinking about their emotional six-game victory over the Maple Leafs during Saturday's opener. That shouldn't be a problem in Game 2, as Philadelphia knows it will have to be focused on matching the Lightning's disciplined approach.

If the Flyers can't win Monday, their dominant home play in these playoffs will become an even bigger factor in Game 3. Philadelphia is 6-0 at the Wachovia Center, but 2-4 on the road.

The teams will get two days off before the series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Thursday.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Flyers - 3rd seed; beat New Jersey Devils 4-1, quarterfinals; beat Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2, semifinals. Lightning - 1st seed; beat New York Islanders 4-1, quarterfinals; beat Montreal Canadiens 4-0, semifinals.

PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - Keith Primeau, 5 goals; Alexei Zhamnov, 8 assists and 12 points; Donald Brashear, 18 PIM. Lightning - Modin, Richards and Vincent Lecavalier, 5 goals; Modin, 8 assists and 13 points; Andre Roy, 14 PIM.

PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Flyers - Power play: 17.9 percent (7 for 35). Penalty killing: 89.6 percent (43 for 48). Lightning - Power play: 11.6 percent (5 for 43). Penalty killing: 86.7 percent (26 for 30).

GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Esche (8-4, 1 SO, 2.11 GAA); Sean Burke (0-0, 1.50). Lightning - Khabibulin (9-1, 4, 1.00); John Grahame (no appearances).

REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 4-0. Khabibulin was in goal for all four wins, allowing eight scores on 99 shots. St. Louis had three goals and five assists in the series, and Modin added four goals and two assists for Tampa Bay. Esche, one of four goalies used by the Flyers against the Lightning, was 0-1 with a 3.60 GAA in two games.

Associated Press
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