Shakeup in the crease
Lightning bench Khabibulin for Grahame for Game 5Posted: Friday May 02, 2003 7:27 PM
Updated: Saturday May 03, 2003 1:11 AM
Grahame got the surprise start over record-setting goalie Nikolai Khabibulin on Friday night and the backup made 46 saves, but it wasn't enough to keep the Lightning from being eliminated by the New Jersey Devils.
When Grant Marshall scored 11:12 into the third overtime, the Lightning lost 2-1 and dropped the second-round series in five games. It was a bit of a flukey goal as Grahame lost his stick just before, but didn't know how.
Grahame skated hunched over toward center ice as the Devils celebrated. His teammates came to meet him before they formed the traditional handshake line at the end of a playoff series.
"Going into it, I knew playoff hockey was so intense," Grahame said. "You've just got to focus 100 percent of the time. Was it a good effort? Yeah. Am I disappointed? Yes."
Khabibulin started Tampa Bay's first 10 playoff games this year, going 4-2 in the first round against Washington before losing three of four to the Devils. He allowed 12 goals on 121 shots.
This season, Khabibulin set the Lightning franchise record with 30 wins, but his career playoff mark is only 15-18 with a 2.65 goals-against average in 34 games.
"We felt at this point in time we needed to make a change," coach John Tortorella said.
Grahame, acquired in January from Boston, hadn't played since the Lightning's regular-season finale on April 6. He was 17-14-6 in 40 games this season, but never played a postseason game in his four NHL seasons.
"Johnnie's not a backup by any means," forward Martin St. Louis said. "He played really well for us this year."
During timeouts, Grahame skated to the bench and drank from a bottle in front of Khabibulin. The goalies talked a bit during the breaks, and Khabibulin also spoke with photographers, seated just to his left.
"He kept saying 'Good job' and 'Keep us in it,' just things like that to be supportive," Grahame said.
Grahame stopped five of six shots in the first period and all 16 in the other two regulation periods.
"You're just kind of in the zone once the overtimes keep piling up," Grahame said. "There are not a lot of pretty goals in the third, fourth or fifth overtimes."
He was helped midway through the first period, when a deflected shot by Marshall sneaked through Grahame's pads and struck the left post.
The only goal the Devils scored in regulation came during a first-period power play when Scott Niedermayer fired a shot under Grahame's right leg.
He nearly became an offensive star five minutes into the first overtime when he found Ruslan Fedotenko at center ice with a perfect outlet pass. But Fedotenko couldn't beat goalie Martin Brodeur.
Just 1:30 later, Grahame made a nice stop when Joe Nieuwendyk deflected Brian Gionta's shot from the right circle into him. With 8:23 left in the first overtime, Jamie Langenbrunner forced a turnover and then had his shot stopped in close. He passed the rebound in front to John Madden, who was also stuffed.
The pre-series talk was of the marquee matchup between Khabibulin and Brodeur -- widely considered to be two of the NHL's best goalies. But Khabibulin didn't play well in this series, Tampa Bay's first appearance in the second round.
Brodeur, a finalist for league MVP and the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie, allowed eight goals in this series after yielding eight in the first round against Boston.
In Game 1, the Devils scored three times in the third period to break open a scoreless game and Khabibulin finished with 29 saves. Two days later, Khabibulin made 33 saves but was unable to hold two one-goal leads as the Lightning fell in overtime.
Tampa Bay took a 3-0 lead in the opening period of Game 3, but Khabibulin failed to protect that as well. The Devils got even before the second period was completed before the Lightning pulled out a 4-3 victory for their only win of the series.
The Devils took Game 4 on Wednesday when they scored twice in
the first period and once in the third to win 3-1, taking 26 shots