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Tampa Bay 1, Detroit 0
Posted: Tuesday January 07, 2003 11:19 PM
Detroit Red Wings
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Tampa Bay Lightning
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TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- Everyone was expecting Nikolai Khabibulin to have a good game. And he did.

Khabibulin stopped 30 shots for his second shutout of the season and Brad Richards scored early in the third period, helping the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Coming off a pair of shaky starts, Khabibulin made nine saves in each of the first two periods and 12 in the third en route to his 30th career shutout. He has nine in 110 games with Tampa Bay.

"I've been waiting for a good game for a while," said Khabibulin, whose team snapped a three-game losing streak. "Hopefully, we can build on it. Hopefully, I can build on it."

Khabibulin had not blanked an opponent since October 30 against the New York Rangers. He allowed nine goals in losing his previous two starts, but teammates weren't worried.

"Khabibulin can only go so long without standing on his head," Richards said.

Detroit also was expecting the best from Khabibulin, who was coming off a 5-1 loss in St. Louis. He also dropped a 4-1 decision in Calgary against one of the worst teams in the NHL.

"Since Khabibulin had a rough outing his last game in St. Louis, I knew he would bounce back," said Red Wings defenseman Jason Woolley, whose turnover led to the only goal. "We had our chances."

Rookie Henrik Zetterberg had two great chances for Detroit, but he was robbed in close by Khabibulin in the final minute of the second period and missed an open side of the net off a rebound with 4 1/2 minutes to play.

The Red Wings pulled Curtis Joseph for an extra attacker and had a chance to tie in the closing moments, but Khabibulin dived back to the right goalpost and gloved Brendan Shanahan's stuff attempt with 23 seconds left.

"He was just awesome and everyone fed off it," Lightning defenseman Cory Sarich said. "Especially in the first period, he came up with some big saves and that gave us some energy. We just took off from there."

Khabibulin was just a little better than Joseph, who made 31 saves. Joseph survived a scramble late in the second period when the puck sat on the goal line before it was covered but fell to 18-4-2 lifetime against the Lightning.

"Both goalies were fabulous," Detroit left wing Brett Hull said. "That's the way hockey should be played. There wasn't a guy that left the arena tonight that wasn't entertained." Both teams had just one power play, but the Red Wings failed to score on a 4-on-3 in the second period and lost for just the fourth time in their last 18 games (10-3-4-1).

"We're not going to win if we don't score," Detroit coach Dave Lewis said. "We didn't get the job done. We generated chances, but Khabibulin was tremendous."

Richards scored the only goal of the game with 17:42 remaining. Vaclav Prospal picked off Woolley's careless pass in the left corner, skated to the bottom of the faceoff circle and sent the puck across the crease for a one-timer.

"It was bad timing," said Woolley, whose team suffered its first 1-0 loss since March 31, 2001 against Philadelphia. "I tried to make a backhanded pass. I didn't see the guy behind me."

The goal was just enough for the Lightning, who improved to 3-0-0-1 in their last four home meetings with the defending Stanley Cup champions. They are only 5-18-1 in the all-time series.

"Detroit has all those Hall of Famers, they have that arrogance," said Lightning coach John Tortorella, whose team moved into first place in the Southeast Division. "You can sometimes stand by and watch.

"We knew it was a tremendous challenge but also an opportunity to stand tall. It was nice to see Nik stand tall. Winning 1-0 vs. the defending Stanley Cup champions, I hope, gives us a little boost of confidence."