Monday, May 10, 2004

Tearing down the Bulin wall

The Philadelphia Flyers came out with something to prove on Monday night and by the end of 60 minutes they had made their point, with a huge exclamation point. Scoring early and scoring often the Flyers totally dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 6-2 victory, in the second game of their best of seven series. Philadelphia had said prior to the game that they considered game two to be a must win, and then went out and took control of the game bringing the Lightning’s undefeated string of playoff games to an end at 8.

Robert Esche outperformed Nikolai Khabibulan in this game allowing only 1 goal of 31 shots, while Khabibulan faced 12 shots gave up 4 goals and was chased from the net in the second period, John Grahame took over at 6 minutes of the second, faced17 shots and allowed 2 goals before his night was done.

John Leclair finally got back on the scoring sheet with his goal at 1:53 of the first period, 10 minutes later Mark Recchi had the Flyers up by 2, Sami Kapanen following up with goal number three at the fifteen minute mark. It would prove to be a deep hole for Tampa from which they never managed to get out of.

Vladimir Malakhov started up the second period with goal number 4 at 6:02, Michael Handzus tallying up number 5 with ten seconds to go in the second period. After fourty minutes the Flyers were in cruise control with a 5-0 lead and dominating every aspect of the game. They outplayed Tampa Bay in the corners, took possession in the neutral zone and out hit the Lightning at every instance.

As the third period began the Flyers picked up where they left off with Mattias Timmander scoring the sixth and final Flyers goal at 3:34. Tampa managed to get on the scoreboard after ten minutes when Ruslan Fedetenko finally put a puck behind Esche, seven minutes later Martin St. Louis scored on the power play, the final chance for the Lightning on this night. The third period became a chippy and physical exercise with Tampa trying to answer the bell in front of the home crowd. At the seven minute mark most of the extra curricular activity took place with fighting majors and misconducts coming almost as fast as the Flyer goals did in the first.

Tampa was due for a loss, though even they probably had not imagined such a solid thumping as this one, but at least now they can take note that this won’t be a cake walk. Game three looms large in Philadelphia on Thursday night, a pivotal game at the best of times it will be interesting to watch how Tampa Bay responds to the total domination of game number 2.

For the Flyers the game served to get them back to doing what they do best, create their space and take advantage of the turnover game. They also were able to take care of an unwanted streak of losses to the Bolts. Having lost the four regular season matches and the first playoff game, this win finally takes the heat off of the Flyers line up. With two games to come at home, the Flyers must be feeling a little better about things than they did late Saturday afternoon. With a wild Flyer crowd ready to welcome Tampa to Philly, this may be the first time the Lightning have had to deal with a rabid opposition, how they respond to the challenge will tell quite a bit about how ready they are to make the next step.

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