Lightning strikes again
Tampa Bay heads home after tying series at 2-2Posted: Wednesday April 16, 2003 9:46 PM
Updated: Wednesday April 16, 2003 10:56 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Martin St. Louis is a zone, and he's in no mood to stop and analyze how he got there.
For the second consecutive game, St. Louis provided the spark for the Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring two goals in a 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals that evened the first-round playoff series Wednesday night at 2-2.
"I'm not concentrating on figuring out why we're being so successful," St. Louis said. "I'm just trying to get as many chances as I can and create chances.
"When that stuff happens, you just go with it. You don't try to figure out why."
Coach John Tortorella likes the new St. Louis.
"The key with Marty is that he's stopped thinking," Tortorella said. "He's a guy that reads between the lines and is thinking all the time. Sometimes you just need to play, react and use your instincts."
Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Friday in Tampa Bay, which might or might not be good for the Lightning. The home team has lost every game of the series -- in fact, no home team has even had a lead.
"It's one of the screwiest sports around as far as home ice. No one wants it," Tortorella said. "I think a big plus for us right now is that we've played four games, and we're beginning to understand. I think we're learning our lessons."
The Capitals now have to deal with an ugly past they considered long buried. They were the NHL's collapse artists in the 1990s, blowing a two-game series lead three times from 1992-96, a bit of history Tortorella revived this week when trying to motivate his players.
"We're a totally different team," Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig said. "We've got nine new players just since last year. Back in '98 everybody made a big thing about that, and we seemed to get that monkey off our back. So I don't think anybody's paying too much attention to it."
St. Louis was moved to Lecavalier's line after the Lightning lost the first two games at home. The new line has since accounted, directly or indirectly, for all seven of Tampa Bay's goals.
In the process, the line has done an amazing thing: It has managed to make Jeff Halpern's usually outstanding checking line -- the bedrock of Washington's season -- look very pedestrian.
"They're a shutdown line. They take pride in it," Washington coach Bruce Cassidy said. "This is the time of year you can make a name for yourself in that regard. I hope they are up to the challenge."
Cassidy countered the Lightning changes with some shuffling of his own. But the older Capitals, playing on back-to-back nights, never really hit their stride against the younger Lightning.
"It's now a best of three," Kolzig said. "And we can't be the team that plays like a deer caught in headlights."
Playing just 24 hours after an energetic overtime game, the teams had no goals or penalties in a ragged first period.
The intensity picked up early in the second, when Capitals killed six minutes of penalties before St. Louis broke the scoreless tie with a nice run. Starting beyond the red line, he deked Brendan Witt before beating Kolzig between the legs.
Bondra tied it when he deflected Jason Doig's shot between goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin's legs, and the Capitals' got more momentum when less than a minute later when Tampa Bay committed its first penalty.
But Dave Andreychuk blocked a shot, then forced Kip Miller to turn the puck over to at the blue line. That created a two-man breakaway that ended when the Lightning captain fed St. Louis for the easy short-handed score.
"I don't think he expected me to come all the way over there," Andreychuk said. "Usually, a penalty killer is going to turn around and go to the net. It turns out to be a big play, a momentum changer."
Lecavalier gave the Lightning some breathing room early in the third when he won a faceoff from Halpern, then beat Halpern to the puck to put in the rebound on Jassen Cullimore's shot.
Notes: For the second straight night, the Capitals failed to sell
out MCI Center. Attendance was 15,576 in the 18,277-seat arena, and
two sections -- 202 and 204 in the club seat level -- were completely
empty. ... It was Tampa Bay's first franchise playoff win in
regulation. Both of its victories in the Lightning's only other
series -- against Philadelphia in 1996 -- came in overtime, as well
as Tuesday's Game 3 victory over the Capitals.