STANLEY CUP FINALS
Bolts hold tight, 1-0
Published: Tuesday, June 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2004 at 1:07 a.m.
The Tampa Bay Lightning didn't ask goalie Nikolai Khabibulin for much in the biggest game in their history, only perfection. He delivered it, too, by all but saving their season.
Khabibulin was again at his best when the Lightning are in trouble, staying undefeated following a loss in carrying Tampa Bay to a series-tying 1-0 victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final Monday night.
Brad Richards scored during a two-man advantage in the opening three minutes, his fourth game-winning goal following a Lightning loss. Khabibulin made the goal stand up by making 29 saves in his fifth playoff shutout this spring.
``I have to stay focused no matter what. It was nice that we got the first goal,'' Khabibulin said. ``We didn't get any more, but that was enough to win.''
Barely enough, as the Flames pressured all night with 10 more shots than in any other game in the series.
``That's good goaltending,'' Calgary star Jarome Iginla said. ``We had some chances, but, unfortunately, we didn't make the best of them.''
Richards' 10th goal of the postseason was his seventh game-winner, breaking the record he previously shared with Joe Sakic (1996) and Joe Nieuwendyk (1999). The Lightning are 30-0-2 overall and 8-0 in the playoffs when Richards scores.
The Lightning would have been in desperate straits down 3-1, as only the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 overcame that disadvantage in the final. It didn't help that Tampa Bay was without two key regulars, forward Ruslan Fedotenko and defensemen Pavel Kubina, who were injured in Calgary's 3-0 victory Saturday.
``We found a way to get it done, and that's the most important thing,'' coach John Tortorella said. ``Ugly as hell, but we found a way.''
Khabibulin and the Lightning are 6-0 after a loss, outscoring their opponents 18-5.
``There was definitely a lot of desperation, especially with a couple of key players out,'' defenseman Jassen Cullimore said. ``During our video session today, the theme was, `Let's get the what-ifs or almosts out of our vocabulary.' ``
Even without the injured Fedotenko, who has 10 playoff goals, and Kubina, who plays an average of 22 minutes, Tampa Bay was much more aggressive from the start than it was in Game 3. For good reason, too, as the winning team has scored first in all four games.
Calgary also tried to establish its physical, hard-checking style immediately, just as it did in wearing down the Lightning in Game 3, but Chris Clark (cross checking) and Mike Commodore (holding) both drew penalties just 1:52 in.
Tampa Bay, 0-for-3 on the power play during the first period Saturday, scored on the 5-on-3 with Richards powering a one-timer from just above the hash mark past Miikka Kiprusoff as the goalie was screened by Vincent Lecavalier. It was only the second time in 12 games Calgary has allowed a goal in the first period.
``If they kill that off, it may have been the game,'' Richards said. ``There really was some (desperation) there.''
The Lightning played almost Calgary-like once they got the lead, working just as hard to prevent a goal as they did to try to score another.
``It's (score) the first goal and then defend it, right?'' Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said. ``It's the same thing we do.''
Calgary did everything but score in the first period before an electric, all-in-red crowd of 19,221 that began cheering an hour before the game. The Flames had 12 shots in the period, 10 more than in Game 3, and even had a good chance short-handed late in the period when Ville Nieminen got loose on a breakaway only to have the puck skip off his stick before he could get off a back-hander.
Khabibulin also gave the Lightning a scare in the final minute of the period, nearly muffing the puck as it skidded down the ice on a dump-in. It was about his only mistake of the night.
Calgary was held to five shots in the second period, but stepped up the pressure in the third period as it desperately tried to retain home-ice advantage. Two of the final three games, if necessary, will be in Tampa, including Game 5 Thursday.
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