Thursday, May 13, 2004

Boucning Back Bolts

The Tampa Bay Lightning apparently is not a team that dwells on their last game. After suffering a shellacking at the hands of the Flyers 6-2 on Monday night, the Bolts bounced back with another complete team effort giving them a 4-1 victory in Philadelphia Thursday night.

Facing the usual band of zanies known as Flyer fans the Lightning managed to ignore the noise and make a little of their own. Two goals in two minutes and twenty four seconds set the pace for the game as Tampa used its speed and benefited from some rather shaky first period goaltending from Robert Esche, who struggled with shots through the first.

Cory Stillman and Ruslan Fedetenko got the Lightning off to a successful start, with their two goals fifteen minutes into the period, the goals quickly knocking Philly back on their heels for a bit. Tampa taking the 2-0 lead into the dressing room. The two teams played it tight in the second, though Philadelphia had chances to catch up, taking 13 shots on Nikolai Khabibulan only to have him return to the form that has carried the Bolts so far in this playoff season. Khabibulan credited his team mates for the successful outing as they cleared the crease for him and directed what few rebounds were given up harmlessly away.

Keith Primeau gave the Flyer faithful some hope right off the bat in the third, scoring at the 36 second mark, getting the fans up on their feet and making the thunderous noise that is becoming a trade mark at the Wachovia Centre. But where there’s thunder you’ll usually find Lightning and the Bolts quickly made strides to quiet down the throng, Vincent Lecavalier scored less than a minute later to once again give the Lightning a two goal lead. If ever there was a time for a big save, one to send your team a message this would have been the spot, but Lecavalier proved to be too much for Esche on this night. By games end Esche would give up four goals on only 20 shots, by far his worst appearance in the playoffs thus far.

Brad Richards put the game on ice seven minutes later as he picked up Tampa’s fourth and final goal of the night. Silencing the Philadelphia crowd for the night and reminding the Flyers that one good game does not a series make. The ability to turn in an impressive rebuttal to the last game is a good sign for Tampa. Many observers had dismissed them after the thrashing of game two, suggesting that finally they had run into a team that punishes you for your mistakes and is not afraid to take the body. Walking into the Flyers home rink, amidst all the noise of the last couple of days between the two coaches, Tampa redirected its efforts back to the ice. Coming up with an impressive victory for Game three and setting the table for game four on Saturday afternoon.

Philadelphia was returned a favour Thursday, showing that the Bolts can take charge in the Philly building if the need arises. The amount of off ice chatter set the scene for game three, as Tampa coach John Tortorella tore a strip off of Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock. The Lightning players seemed to react well to their coach’s verbal defence, expect the Flyers to keep things low key prior to game four, no need to give the Bolts any more incentive than they seem to have found so far.

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