Montreal rallied from 3-1 first-round deficit

Updated: April 27, 2004, 3:20 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are confident yet wary as they head to Montreal with a 2-0 series lead.

The top-seeded Lightning won the first two games over the Canadiens at home, but they say the best-of-seven matchup that continues Tuesday is far from over. The next two games are on the road against a team that has proven it can be resilient in the playoffs.

Montreal rallied from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the Boston Bruins in the first round. The seventh-seeded Canadiens lost the first two games of that series on the road, too.

"We're as confident as you want to be, but we're not looking any farther ahead than what we've got in front of us, the first game in Montreal," Lightning center Brad Richards said.

"Things can change so easily," he added. "They're going home. We're confident, but we're very respectful of their team, what they can do and what they have done against Boston. They're going to believe in themselves, and it's going to be a tough series."

The Lightning outscored the Canadiens 7-1 in the first two games, with Nikolai Khabibulin stopping 47 of 48 shots.

Vincent Lecavalier, a native of Montreal who's looking forward to playing a postseason game in his hometown for the first time, has four goals in the series after being shut out in Tampa Bay's first-round victory over the New York Islanders.

"Obviously, we're all excited about going back up north with family watching us and experiencing the playoffs in a city that lives for hockey," said NHL scoring champion Martin St. Louis, who grew up in Laval, Quebec, just outside of Montreal.

"But they all understand this is our time of the year. You don't say that family comes second many times, but this is one of the times family comes second. This is all about the team and us trying to get to our goal," St. Louis said.

Richards grew up on Prince Edward Island, but he played three seasons of juniors in Quebec, so he has a good idea of what to expect.

"It's going to be a whole different environment up there," Richards said. "They're going to be geared up.

"They're going to have another two or three steps with the fans behind them. We're going to have to weather the storm and keep it very simple. I think we learned a lot last year just how to do that. But like I said, it's going to be a whole different environment up there."

The Canadiens also believe returning home will help them.

One of the keys to getting back into the series will be eliminating costly mistakes such as Sheldon Souray's turnover that led to one of Lecavalier's two goals in Tampa Bay's 3-1 victory in Game 2.

The Canadiens also will have to find a way to break through against Khabibulin, who has allowed just five goals in seven playoff games.

"They're a great team, but we're here for a reason, too," Souray said. "I'm pointing a finger at myself. ... I think we have players who can play better, and I put myself at the top of that list."

Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella has cautioned his team against becoming complacent.

"We won two games, but it's the first one to four," Tortorella said. "All we're concerned about is the next game. You can't get too far ahead of yourself because the teams are so evenly matched. You get too far ahead of yourself in playoff hockey against a club like that, it's going to come back and bite you."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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