UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) _ Desperation is a good thing in the Stanley Cup
After losing at home to the New York Islanders, the Tampa Bay Lightning
wanted to play as if every shift, shot and save could make the difference in
their playoff series. So they scored early, then turned turn matters over to
goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin in a 3-0 victory Monday night.
Khabibulin's 28 saves and two goals by Martin St. Louis gave Tampa Bay a 2-1
opening-round lead. Brad Richards had a goal and two assists.
All three games have ended 3-0, and for Game 4 here Wednesday night, both
teams must be thinking that allowing even one goal can doom them.
``Nik was tremendous again,'' St. Louis said. ``He was the Nos. 1-2-3 stars
tonight. He was the difference.
``Our desperation was as high as I've seen it, and we need it every shift.
Teams will not go far in the playoffs if they are goofing around.''
There was nothing goofy about Khabibulin's third career shutout. He made the
first save, then usually controlled the puck. His teammates helped by quickly
breaking out of the defensive zone most of the night.
``We have to be pleased, no matter what happens,'' Khabibulin said. ``It's
nice to get the win, but at the same time, we have to get four wins.''
Richards put the Lightning in front on a power play 3:40 into the game. He
was stationed in the slot when Dan Boyle passed from the right point, and
Richards deflected the puck off Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro and it trickled
into the net.
``We had the same type of opportunities in Game 2 and didn't score,'' said
Richards, who got his first playoff goal in 14 games. ``Tonight, the difference
maybe was scoring in the first period.''
Less than three minutes later, it was 2-0. St. Louis, the NHL's leading
scorer this season with 94 points, got his first point of the series with a
wrist shot from 15 feet. He was set up by some excellent work along the boards
from linemates Richards and Fredrik Modin.
``If we play desperate like tonight, we'll be in good shape,'' St. Louis
Khabibulin kept it 2-0 with several superb first-period saves. His best came
when he robbed Mark Parrish from close range on an Islanders power play, and he
also handled a deft deflection by Dave Scatchard during a New York flurry.
Richards also put a wraparound attempt off the goal post while Tampa Bay was
Khabibulin was spectacular in the final minute of the second period, turning
aside a wave of dangerous shots, including two by Mariusz Czerkawski and a
slapper by Kenny Jonsson within seconds of each other. Until then, the
Islanders rarely came close to beating the Russian goaltender.
``We were probably gripping our sticks a little tight,'' Islanders captain
Michael Peca said. ``We knew full well that they were going to come out better
than they have.''
New York won both regular-season meetings at Nassau Coliseum, but Monday the
Lightning showed why they were the Eastern Conference's best team. Six minutes
into the final period, with Tampa Bay dominating the puck, the crowd began
booing the home team _ except for DiPietro, who stopped a partial breakaway by
Dimitry Afanasenkov, then blocked a rebound shot.
The fans got excited only sporadically, and when Khabibulin allowed a rare
rebound on Peca's shot, he stopped Parrish's attempt midway in the third
period. New York never really threatened again.