'He said, he said' heats up

Originally Published: May 13, 2004
Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning won't let the Philadelphia Flyers push them around -- or verbally abuse them.

Ken Hitchcock
Hitchcock

John Tortorella
Tortorella

The bad blood between the Eastern Conference finals opponents intensified Wednesday, with Lightning coach John Tortorella delivering a stern message to Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock: Shut your yap.

The series, tied at 1, resumes Thursday night in Philadelphia, where the Flyers are 6-0 in the playoffs. The Lightning are 4-0 on the road this postseason.

Philadelphia's 6-2 victory Monday night turned ugly in the third period, with the teams combining for 25 penalties totaling 118 minutes, including a few fights. The physical play didn't bother either coach. Tortorella, however, took exception because he said Hitchcock had words with some Lightning players.

"Last time I looked, he's wearing a suit back there, the same type of suit I'm wearing," Tortorella said. "He's not in the battle. There are two quality teams here. He should shut his yap. It's not about him. It's about two quality teams.

"We understand how Philly works as far as the dialogue that goes on with all this stuff here, but when it comes to a coach to an opposing player, it's disrespectful and it's wrong. That's got to stop. Park your ego. Shove it in your pocket."

Told of Tortorella's comments, Hitchcock kept his simple.

"Tell him to mind his own business," Hitchcock said.

Hitchcock had plenty to say after Game 2 because he was angry that constant replays of Donald Brashear's hit on Lightning forward Tim Taylor -- which didn't result in a penalty -- were shown on the arena's video screen.

Hitchcock said the replays were used to incite the crowd, and the NHL later reprimanded the in-game crew for violating league policy.

"We knew going into this series Bobby Clarke, the general manager, was going to be working as hard as he can behind the scenes as far as whining about this, that, the other thing," Tortorella said. "We know Hitch is going to be talking about anything that's on his mind and will talk to anybody who'll listen to him. We accept that. It's something that can't bother us and it won't bother us. It won't hurt us in our preparation."

Tortorella and the Lightning have more to worry about on the ice now that the Flyers have won a game. Tampa Bay had won eight straight against Philadelphia, including all four meetings in the 2003-04 regular season.

The Flyers outplayed the Lightning in a 3-1 series-opening loss, then dominated Game 2. They sent goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who came in with a 1.00 goals-against average, to the bench with four goals on their first 12 shots and never let up.

"The good thing is, no matter what the score is, we only lost one game," Khabibulin said. "We've got to stay positive. It wasn't our best game, and everybody realizes that. We'll have to play better next game."

The Flyers are hoping to build on their latest lopsided victory just as they did against Toronto in the conference semifinals. Philadelphia won Game 5 against the Maple Leafs 7-2, then closed them out with a 3-2 overtime victory in Toronto.

"We need to move onward and upward," Flyers captain Keith Primeau said. "It's a similar situation to the Toronto series. We're going to be ready. We'll build on the confidence we've created here."

The Flyers have been successful because Hitchcock altered his game plan for this series. Instead of playing a conservative defensive style, the Flyers are taking risks on offense, creating more odd-man rushes that lead to better scoring opportunities.

Also, Philadelphia has been the faster team against Tampa Bay, which has several speedy forwards.

"We've got the best adjustment maker in Hitch, and he's done that for us not only every series, but within series, within periods," Primeau said. "We just follow his lead."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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