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Tampa Bay wins fifth straight

3/2/2004

DENVER (AP) -- Nikolai Khabibulin barely broke a sweat.

Khabibulin needed to make only 16 saves Monday night in posting
his 35th career shutout as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the
Colorado Avalanche 3-0 for their fifth straight win.

"I wasn't tested," Khabibulin said. "We played great defense,
and that's part of it. This was one of the best defensive games
I've been a part of.

"We moved the puck and didn't allow them many chances. The guys
blocked a lot of shots, and we kept control of the puck. The plan
was to keep control of the puck as much as possible, and for most
of the game, we followed that plan."

Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis scored third-period
goals and Brad Richards also scored for the Lightning, who set a
franchise record for road wins in a season at 18.

The Lightning, 9-0-1-2 in their last 12 games, raised their
point total to 84, matching Ottawa and Philadelphia for the most
points in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay has the most wins (36) of the three.

"We have the team to be where we are," Lecavalier said. "But
we have to stay even-keel. There is still a lot of work to do, with
17 or 18 games left to the playoffs. So our work isn't done."

Colorado's David Aebischer had 26 saves.

Colorado's home-ice woes continued. The Avalanche are winless in
their last seven home games (0-4-2-1) and have scored only six
goals in those games. They also are 1-5-1-1 in their last eight
games overall.

"There is no question that we are in a slump," Avs coach Tony
Granato said. "It's a lot longer than we thought we would be in
one. Going through the season, you obviously think you are going to
have little stumbles, but I didn't think we would get caught in a
rut like this.

"We haven't been able to generate a whole lot of offense. With
the people we have on this team, that should be our strength."

Avalanche wing Paul Kariya said his team is "trying to be too
cute when we should be getting the puck to the net. You can't win
games making 14, 15 shots."

Tampa Bay outshot Colorado 10-4 in the third period, scoring
twice. Lecavalier made it 2-0, coming down the right side, faking
left and scoring through an opening on the right side of the net at
14:20. It was his 25th goal of the season.

St. Louis added an empty-net goal with 1:05 to go, his 32nd goal.

Tampa Bay had a 15-5 edge in shots in the first period and led
1-0 on Richards' 21st goal. Fredrik Modin's shot ricocheted just
right of the goal, and Richards punched it in.

Aebischer kept the score from being more lopsided, stopping
Martin Cibak on a partial breakaway and later making a sprawling
save to rob Lecavalier. Colorado's Milan Hejduk hit the goalpost
during the Avs' lone power play of the game.

In a scoreless second period, Aebischer had a save off Richards on a two-on-one rush. Khabibulin had nice saves against Teemu Selanne and Hejduk and a glove save off Steve Moore.

Colorado had a prime scoring chance on a two-on-one early in the
period, but Travis Brigley whiffed on a shot in front.

Game notes
Colorado center Peter Forsberg missed his seventh straight
game because of a groin injury. ... Lightning wing Andre Roy played
in his 300th career game. ... St. Louis extended his points streak
to 12 games, during which he has eight goals and 13 assists.