He may have Lightning coach John Tortorella pulling out his hair at times, but Thursday night Nickolai Khabibulin had the New York Islanders on edge not his coach. In fact Tortorella couldn't find enough kind words to say about the way his goaltender performed through the game.
Khabibulin kicked aside 30 Islander shots on the way to a 3-0 victory in game one of the Lightning-Islander match up. Thursday night marked his first playoff shutout since the 1997 playoff season. His play Thursday should help take some of the heat off of his poor play of the last week and half of the regular season, which at one point had his coach publicly chastising him for his efforts in the net.
Surprisingly NHL scoring leader Martin St. Louis was held off the score sheet on the night registering only two shots on net, Fredrik Morin and Andre Roy making the most of their opportunities Thursday to give the Lightning the win. The victory should give them a bit of a confidence boost as they prepare for game Two on Saturday.
The Islanders won the season series taking three of the four games and playing the Bolts tightly through the year. That combined with Khabibulin’s past playoff troubles had a few observers thinking that this could be the upset series of the eight first round offerings. Thursday’s result shows that Khabibulin and the Lightning don’t put much stock into those suggestions.