Confident Lightning not taking home ice for granted
TAMPA, Fla. -- Now that Tampa Bay has beaten Ottawa for the first time in more than three years to even their NHL playoff series at one game apiece, the Lightning have to find a way to win again, again and again to eliminate the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
That doesn't figure to be easy, even with the next two games at home Tuesday and Thursday nights.
"It's far from done, but we did get something accomplished," center Brad Richards said Monday, reflecting on Tampa Bay's 4-3 victory Sunday night in Ottawa -- Tampa Bay's first win over the Senators since March 1, 2003.
"We've won one game, that is it," Lightning coach John Tortorella agreed. "I think what we did is just turn this into a series. ... As the series goes on, you have to play better. We know Ottawa is going to play better the third game."
Still, beating the Senators on the road -- or any place for that matter -- was a huge boost. The Lightning have lost 18 of 22 games to Ottawa over the past five seasons, including a 4-1 setback in the series opener.
Martin St. Louis scored twice, including the winner just 55 seconds after Dan Boyle's goal wiped out a 3-2 Ottawa lead. It was just the kind of performance the Lightning have come to expect from one of the main catalysts in their Stanley Cup run two years ago.
The 2003-04 league MVP and scoring champion struggled at times during the regular season but appears to have recaptured his form at the right time.
"I want to help any way I can. Sometimes it's a goal. Sometimes it's winning a battle. Sometimes it's a hit. Whatever I can do," St. Louis said after a 90-minute practice and film session Monday.
"I think everybody thinks the same way. We're all trying to accomplish the same thing. I think everybody's putting pressure on themselves to be the difference. When you've got 20 guys who think like that, usually you have success," he said.
Ottawa expects an important component back for Game 3.
Defenseman Wade Redden left the Senators before Game 2 to be with family after the death of his mother, who died Saturday night. He plans to rejoin the club Tuesday and also play in Game 4 on Thursday night before flying to Saskatchewan for the funeral on Friday.
His absence was felt in Game 2. However, Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said the Senators still had plenty of opportunities to win.
"I'm not going to criticize our guys. They lost a hockey game, it's a best-of-7 series. They [the Lightning] played really well," Murray said.
"Once we got the lead a few minutes into the third we were too hesitant. We played too patient and kind of stopped skating and we couldn't get it going after," Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson said. "I think it's not what they did, it's more what we did -- or didn't do."
With the next two games at home, the Lightning aren't taking anything for granted.
Tampa Bay felt one of the keys to winning Game 2 was playing more physical and expects Ottawa to try to do the same Tuesday night.
"There's no guarantees even though you go back to your home building. It's going to be a dogfight to the end," Boyle said.
"We plan on picking it a notch. We have to," Richards said. "I don't think either team has played its best game yet."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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