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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders @NHLdotcom
Islanders-Lightning Preview

GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Islanders.

PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; tied 1-1.

TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EDT.

The New York Islanders have been giving the Tampa Bay Lightning trouble for the last three regular seasons. A playoff matchup has apparently changed little between the teams.

The top-seeded Lightning look to bounce back from being shut out in Game 2 of the first-round series when the scene shifts to raucous Nassau Coliseum for Game 3.

Tampa Bay beat New York 3-0 in Thursday night's opener and looked ready to take command in the series Saturday. But the Islanders returned the favor with a 3-0 victory, as 22-year-old Rick DiPietro made 22 saves for his first postseason win in his second career start to pull his team even.

"I think everyone's nervous," DiPietro said. "If you don't have jitters, then you better check your pulse because this is a big time of year. Big circumstances."

This series has further confirmed that Tampa Bay's problems against New York aren't a result of Lightning overconfidence. New York, which won the season series 3-1 and is 9-3 against Tampa Bay since the start of the 2001-02 season, outshot the Lightning 30-15 in the opener.

"I think some guys are fighting the puck a little bit. ... It happens sometimes," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "I'm not discouraged. I believe in this hockey club. We'll be ready to play."

They had better be at Nassau Coliseum, where the Lightning went 0-2 this season and lost by a combined score of 8-2. Islanders fans are sure to crank up the volume in the NHL's smallest venue.

"Long Island is a tough place to play when the crowd's going, so we're looking forward to getting back and seeing our fans and having them push us through these next two games," said DiPietro, who four years ago became the first goaltender selected No. 1 overall in the NHL draft.

While the fans should give the Islanders an emotional lift Monday night, it was Jason Blake who sparked his team Saturday. Blake returned from a high ankle sprain, expected to sideline him for the entire series, and scored his first two career playoff goals - including an empty-netter with just under a minute to go.

Janne Niinimaa also scored his first playoff goal and added an assist on Blake's second as New York wrested away home-ice advantage. The Islanders had one of the league's best home records this season at 25-11-4-1.

"To go home is great, but it's going to take an effort like that no matter where we play to continue to succeed," Islanders first-year coach Steve Stirling said.

For Tampa Bay to regain control of the series, its top players have to get on track in a hurry. The Lightning's top four scorers - Martin St. Louis, Cory Stillman, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier - were shut out for a second straight game, and Tampa Bay went 0-for-7 on the power play.

If those stars can't help the Lightning generate more offensive chances, the pressure increases on Nikolai Khabibulin. Tampa Bay's goalie has given up only two goals in the series, but has seen his team outshot in both contests. The Islanders held a 25-22 advantage Saturday.

It remains to be seen whether rugged defenseman Eric Cairns will return to the Islanders' lineup for Game 3. New York was done in by two turnovers by Cairns in Game 1. Stirling insisted he didn't hold him responsible, but Cairns didn't play Saturday.

With the more mobile Sven Butenschon replacing Cairns, Tampa Bay struggled to generate scoring chances.

St. Louis, the NHL scoring champion this season, has been limited to four shots in the series.

Game 4 is Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Lightning - 106 points; 1st seed. Islanders - 91 points; 8th seed.

PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Fredrik Modin, 2 goals and 2 points; Darryl Sydor and Pavel Kubina, 1 assist; St. Louis, 6 PIM. Islanders - Blake, 2 goals; Mark Parrish, 2 assists; Blake, Parrish and Niinimaa, 2 points; four with 4 PIM.

PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Lightning - Power play: 7.1 percent (1 for 14). Penalty killing: 87.5 percent (7 for 8). Islanders - Power play: 12.5 percent (1 for 8). Penalty killing: 92.9 percent (13 for 14).

GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Khabibulin (1-1, 1 SO, 1.02 GAA); John Grahame (no appearances). Islanders - DiPietro (1-1, 1, 1.50); Garth Snow (no appearances).

Associated Press
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