Flyers: We have to convert our chances
TAMPA, Fla. -- First, the Philadelphia Flyers blew a two-on-none opportunity. Then, they wasted two two-on-ones.
The Tampa Bay Lightning wouldn't give them another chance to take a lead.
The underdog Flyers couldn't take advantage of early scoring opportunities and lost 3-1 to the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday.
"Against a team that can score like Tampa, you want to capitalize on those," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We weren't able to get a lead after the first period, and it allowed them to stay in the game."
Game 2 is Monday night. The Flyers, trailing a series for the first time in these playoffs, don't want to go home down 2-0.
It was only the second time in 12 postseason games they didn't score first.
Philadelphia's best chance to go ahead came when Keith Primeau had a breakaway with teammate Sami Kapanen on Nikolai Khabibulin. Primeau kept the puck, stumbled as he took a shot, and Kapanen flipped the rebound into the net.
But the goal was disallowed because Primeau got tangled with Khabibulin and was called for goaltender interference.
"I'm going to the net, I'm trying to make a play and I fall, and we score on a rebound," Primeau said. "That's not giving the goalie a shot when we have a scoring chance.
"The refs have been forewarned to be overprotective of the goaltenders, but we can't change the way we play, and that means getting to the net and creating chances. I guess we'll take our chances that we don't fall on the goalie."
On Tampa Bay's ensuing power play, Kapanen backhanded a pass to a streaking Michal Handzus, but Handzus' one-handed attempt sailed wide of the net.
"We have to convert our chances," Handzus said.
While the Flyers failed to take advantage on their scoring opportunities, the Lightning didn't miss on their chances.
Tampa Bay's first two goals came on defensive miscues. Kim Johnsson failed to clear the puck on Dave Andreychuk's goal. Mark Recchi turned the puck over and Mattias Timander couldn't clear it on Brad Richards' goal.
Johnsson's clearing attempt hit referee Dan Marouelli and went right to Fredrik Modin, who passed to Andreychuk.
"They're talented. We have to be better with the puck," Flyers forward Jeremy Roenick said.
Hitchcock was encouraged by his team's performance, considering the Flyers were swept by Tampa Bay in the regular season, losing four games by a scoring margin of 18-8.
"Compared to where we were the last time we played in February, it's night and day," Hitchcock said. "We did a lot of good things, but we have to score more than one goal."
One area the Flyers must improve is the power play. Philadelphia came in with the best power-play percentage (7-for-35 for 20 percent) of the four remaining teams, but didn't generate any scoring chances on four opportunities Saturday.
The Flyers also didn't make Khabibulin work hard to make saves. They took 20 shots, but most came on long shots that weren't difficult to stop.
"They defended the front of the net well," Hitchcock said. "They obviously know how to play defense."
The Lightning weren't intimidated by the bigger Flyers' forwards. Tim Taylor delivered a crushing hit on tough guy Donald Brashear along the boards in the second period, and Modin had a similar hit on Recchi.
But Tampa Bay didn't overwhelm Philadelphia with its speed, a promising sign for the Flyers for the rest of the series.
"I didn't notice their speed. I didn't see it," Hitchcock said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press