GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Islanders.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference quarterfinals; Lightning lead 2-1.
TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EDT.
The top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning allowed the New York Islanders to even
their first-round series with a convincing victory in Game 2. The Lightning
didn't wait too long before regaining control.
Now Tampa Bay is looking to push New York to the brink of elimination as the
teams get set to meet in Game 4.
The Lightning used their speed to get the Islanders back on their heels
immediately in Game 3, skating hard from the outset and clogging up the neutral
The result was goals from Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis in the first
6:32, and the Lightning also got 28 saves from Nikolai Khabibulin in a 3-0
victory Monday night. The win swung the momentum back to Tampa Bay after the
Islanders took Game 2 by the same score Saturday.
"Nik was tremendous again," said St. Louis, who added an empty net goal in
the third and recorded his first two points of the series. "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."
Tampa Bay has to be encouraged by having St. Louis and Richards finally play
a major role offensively, but it's Khabibulin who looks like he could carry the
Lightning into the East semifinals. His team was outshot Monday for the third
straight time, but he earned his second 3-0 victory of the series.
"We have to be pleased, no matter what happens," said Khabibulin, who has
stopped 80 Islanders shots. "It's nice to get the win, but at the same time,
we have to get four wins."
With Khabibulin at the top of his game and St. Louis finally able to break
free of the Islanders' checking, the Lightning will be looking to put a
stranglehold on the series Wednesday. Limited to two shots in each of the first
two games, St. Louis, the NHL regular-season scoring leader, had four shots in
Game 3 and was the catalyst as Tampa Bay dominated the puck in the third
"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."
The Islanders won both games against the Lightning at Nassau Coliseum this
season and posted one of the NHL's best regular-season home records at
25-11-4-1, but have lost three straight postseason home contests.
To bring that home-ice advantage into play Wednesday, Peca and his teammates
will likely try to duplicate Tampa Bay's Game 3 strategy. They'll look to come
out strong in an attempt to grab the lead and get their usually raucous crowd
into the game. The home fans were only loud Wednesday during the third period,
when they booed the Isles as the Lightning carried the play.
"Certainly, it's a game you learn from and move on to the next game," Peca
said. "From experience, if you don't come out and get an early goal, the
adrenaline tends to wash away, especially when you give up an early goal.
"Wednesday is very critical. We don't want to go back to the other rink at
The pressure increases on 22-year-old goalie Rick DiPietro as New York tries
to avoid a 3-1 deficit. DiPietro, who shut out the Lightning in Game 2, played
well in Game 3 and made several key saves to keep it close. He stopped a
partial breakaway by Dimitry Afanasenkov and then denied the rebound shot,
finishing with 21 saves.
"I think it will be a long series, we didn't think either team would
sweep," DiPietro said. "We realize the task at hand, but I think we are
Lightning defenseman Jassen Cullimore left in the second period with an
undisclosed injury. His status for Wednesday is uncertain.
Game 5 is Friday at the St. Pete Times Forum.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Lightning - 106 points; 1st seed. Islanders - 91 points;
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Fredrik Modin and St. Louis, 2 goals;
Richards, 2 assists; Modin and Richards, 3 points; St. Louis, 8 PIM. Islanders
- Jason Blake, 2 goals; Mark Parrish, 2 assists; Blake, Parrish and Janne
Niinimaa, 2 points; five with 4 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Lightning - Power play: 12.5 percent (2 for 16).
Penalty killing: 90.9 percent (10 for 11). Islanders - Power play: 9.1 percent
(1 for 11). Penalty killing: 87.5 percent (14 for 16).
GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Khabibulin (2-1, 2 SO, 0.67 GAA); John Grahame (no
appearances). Islanders - DiPietro (1-2, 1, 1.68); Garth Snow (no appearances).