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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; series tied 3-3.

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EDT.

Very little has been constant in the Eastern Conference finals.

The play of Keith Primeau is one notable exception.

Following another brilliant performance from their captain, the Philadelphia Flyers will again look to follow his lead when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.

Primeau, by far Philadelphia's best player in this postseason, came up huge again for his team in Game 6 on Thursday, scoring an improbable goal with 1:49 left in regulation to force overtime.

Already with three points in the game, the Flyers captain wasn't done.

With his team needing a win to force Game 7 back in Tampa Bay, Primeau assisted on Simon Gagne's goal with 1:42 left in overtime, assuring the Flyers a chance to play for the Eastern Conference title.

Philadelphia's victory means no team in this series has been able to win consecutive games - a trend the Flyers need to end Saturday if they are to advance to the Stanley Cup finals against Calgary.

Primeau has four goals and four assists in this series. He has nine goals in 17 playoff games this year, compared with just nine goals in 110 previous postseason games.

"The man just continues to amaze me," Philadelphia's Jeremy Roenick said of Primeau. "He continues to be the ultimate competitor, the ultimate captain, the ultimate leader."

While Primeau's scoring clearly has been the biggest factor for the Flyers, he has also been a physical force on every shift and won 12 of 19 faceoffs Thursday.

The newly constructed line of Roenick, Gagne and Primeau accounted for four goals and four assists in Game 6.

"That whole line was unbelievable," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That line for the most part was unstoppable. We just had so many good efforts from so many people, we had a lot of people that just didn't want the season to end. They wouldn't be denied and Keith led the charge."

Tampa Bay, less than two minutes away from its first trip to the finals, must now regroup and find a way to win Game 7 at home, where it is 6-2 this postseason.

Former Flyer Ruslan Fedotenko and Vincent Lecavalier each scored twice in Game 6 for the Lightning, who have never played a Game 7 in their 12-year history.

"We lost an opportunity," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We have to regroup, wipe it clean and it's a great opportunity to play in a Game 7 situation, and we're looking forward to it."

The Lightning can look to 40-year-old captain Dave Andreychuk for Game 7 experience.

Andreychuk, hoping to make his first trip to the Stanley Cup finals in a 22-year career, has played in several Game 7s, including a loss to Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings in the 1993 Western Conference finals, when he was with Toronto.

"I've been through that before," Andreychuk said. "That's part of the game. We'll rebound by trying to realize that this team has worked hard all year long to get home-ice advantage. Now we have a Game 7 in our building."

This will be the third Game 7 for the Flyers since 1989. They lost to New Jersey in the 2000 conference finals and beat Toronto in the 2003 quarterfinals.

Philadelphia, seeking its first trip to the finals since it was swept by Detroit in 1997, has only won one Game 7 on the road - at Pittsburgh in the 1989 Patrick Division semifinals.

"I think desperate teams are dangerous," Primeau said. "You have so much to lose in that situation. That's why Game 7s are always exciting for those watching because both teams become just as desperate."

Just as Primeau has been an offensive force for Philadelphia, Lecavalier is doing the same for Tampa Bay.

After failing to record a point in the Lightning's first-round victory over the New York Islanders, Lecavalier has nine goals and four assists in his last 10 games, including four goals and six points in this series.

Philadelphia played Game 6 without defensemen Eric Desjardins and Marcus Ragnarsson, but did get rookie defenseman Joni Pitkanen back in the lineup. With left wing Radovan Somik sitting out with a hand injury sustained in Game 5, Sami Kapanen, a forward who has played defense in this series, moved back up front to take his place.

Kapanen played left wing on a line with Alexei Zhamnov and Mark Recchi, and scored the Flyers' third goal with 7:18 left in the second period.

After scoring two goals in Tampa Bay's 4-2 victory in Game 5, Lightning center Brad Richards was limited to one assist Thursday. The Lightning are 6-0 in the playoffs when Richards scores a goal after going 22-0-2 during the regular season.

The winner of this game will host Calgary in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Tuesday.

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 - Primeau, 9 goals and 16 points; Zhamnov, 10 assists; Donald Brashear, 61 PIM. Lightning - Lecavalier, 9 goals; Martin St. Louis, 12 assists and 17 points; Andre Roy, 40 PIM.

PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Flyers - Power play: 13.6 percent (8 for 59). Penalty killing: 81.2 percent (56 for 69). Lightning - Power play: 20.3 percent (13 for 64). Penalty killing: 90.0 percent (45 for 50).

GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Robert Esche (11-6, 1 SO, 2.34 GAA); Sean Burke (0-0, 1.50). Lightning - Nikolai Khabibulin (11-4, 4, 1.69); John Grahame (0-0, 3.53).

Associated Press
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