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
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
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
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
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;
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).