Philly too tired to go all out vs. Bolts

Updated: May 22, 2004, 11:08 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Philadelphia Flyers' championship drought has reached 29 seasons.

Philadelphia's hope of winning its first Stanley Cup since 1975 ended Saturday night with a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"The disappointment is immense," Flyers forward Jeremy Roenick said. "It's almost to the point you feel you have to throw up. It makes you sick to your stomach."

After rallying to win Game 6 in overtime, the resilient Flyers couldn't carry the momentum of their improbable comeback victory into the decisive game.

Depleted by injuries and weary from a long, grueling playoff run, the Flyers didn't have enough to get past the upstart Lightning, who are going to the Cup finals for the first time in the franchise's 12-year history.

"We had to expend a lot of energy to get to this point," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We weren't able to sustain our normal pressure."

Ruslan Fedotenko scored the first goal against his former teammates, and Fredrik Modin made it 2-0 in the second period.

Seconds after Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott grabbed the microphone and implored Lightning fans to make noise, Kim Johnsson silenced the crowd -- except for the hundreds chanting, "Let's Go Flyers!" -- with a goal that cut it to 2-1 midway through the second period.

But the Lightning stayed in control, and, unlike Game 6, when they were content to sit on the lead, continued to pressure the Flyers.

Philadelphia had chances to tie it early in the third period, but John LeClair fell as he was trying a wraparound shot. Minutes later, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin made a chest save on a shot by Sami Kapanen during a three-on-two breakaway.

"It's disappointing we no longer get to play," captain Keith Primeau said. "We had a lot of courageous guys throughout this run. I feel for all of my teammates. We wanted this. To fall short, it's devastating."

An ineffective power-play unit again cost Philadelphia. The Flyers failed on their first two chances with the man advantage, missing an opportunity to take an early lead.

Meanwhile, the Lightning needed just 13 seconds and one shot to score on their first power-play opportunity as Fedotenko deflected Brad Richards' slap shot for his third goal in two games.

The Flyers finished the series 1-for-25 on the power play, and they were 1-for-38 going back to Game 4 of their second-round series against Toronto.

Philadelphia had the NHL's second-best power-play percentage (27.1 percent) in the regular season, going 65-for-314. But after starting the playoffs with four goals in its first nine chances with the extra man, Philadelphia went 4-for-51.

"The power play didn't play well," Johnsson said. "We didn't get it done."

Despite the loss, it was a remarkable run for the Atlantic Division champions. The Flyers' defense was decimated by injuries. Eric Desjardins, the team's best defenseman, was out for the playoffs. Johnsson missed the first three games of the second round, and Marcus Ragnarsson went down in Game 3 against Tampa Bay.

"This is a team of tremendous character," Hitchcock said.

The Flyers were less than two minutes from elimination in Game 6 before Primeau scored the tying goal and Simon Gagne won it in overtime.

But Primeau, a dominant player throughout the playoffs, couldn't lead the Flyers back to another victory.

Philadelphia began the playoffs by beating defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey in five games, then defeated Toronto in six games.

The Flyers were seeking their eighth trip to the Cup finals, their first since getting swept by Detroit in 1997. They're now 6-6 in Game 7s.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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