Saturday, April 17, 2004

Lightning Lock Up series

Martin St. Louis took a bit of time to break free of the Islanders checking, but when he did it made all the difference. St. Louis scored with a rocket of a shot in Overtime, securing a 3-2 win over the Islanders and sending the Lightning on to the next round of the playoffs. This was the second year in a row and the second year in their history that the Bolts have advanced beyond the first round.

The Islanders accomplished one thing before bowing out for the season; they broke Nickolai Khabibulin’s shut out streak at 145 minutes and nine seconds, as Oleg Kvasha found that elusive back of the Tampa net midway through the first period. Over the firs four games of this series, Khabibulin had stopped an amazing 113 of 115 shots directed at him. 24 more made their way at him tonight, 2 of which found success, but in the end he closed the door in OT giving St. Louis the chance to claim his part of Lightning history.

The Islanders never seemed to get untracked against the Bolts in this series, winning their only game back at the end of Game Two. Rick DiPietro played some good hockey in the nets, but eventually the Lightning found his range. The Lightning took advantage of sloppy clearing and an inability to clear the net on the way to their win. Tampa can now catch a little rest and watch the rest of the Eastern playoffs; from their lofty position as conference champion they await the lowest ranked of the surviving squads.

Whichever team ends up matched up against them, had best get as much film on Khabibulan as possible, somewhere in his game is a weak spot. The Islanders couldn’t find it; success for the next opposition will depend on it.

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