The All-Star goaltender made 26 saves and extended his career-best unbeaten streak to 16 games as Tampa Bay beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Cory Sarich scored the go-ahead goal in the second, and Vinny
Prospal tied a career high with his 22nd goal for the Lightning,
who are 7-0-6 in their past 13 games and are approaching the first
division championship in their 11-year history.
Tampa Bay leads Washington by three points with two games
remaining for each team in a race for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern
Conference and home-ice advantage in their anticipated first-round
A victory by Ottawa at Washington on Thursday night would clinch the Southeast Division title for Tampa Bay.
"We're really excited, but it's not just about getting the division title,'' Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "It's about starting to win a playoff series.''
Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella thinks a showdown of top goalies
will highlight a matchup with the Capitals.
"The biggest key going into the playoffs is goaltending,''
Tortorella said. "We're facing a good one in Washington, too, in
that animal (Olaf) Kolzig when we play them.''
Khabibulin, who was 7-0-3 in March to earn NHL player of the
month honors, is 12-0-4 since losing to the New York Islanders on
Feb. 11. He has a 1.23 goals-against average and a .954 saves
percentage during that span.
The last unbeaten streak longer than 16 games by an NHL goalie
was 21 by Chris Osgood (19-0-2) for Detroit seven seasons ago.
Khabibulin (30-21-11) also set a club record for victories.
Mathieu Garon (3-5-0) stopped 29 shots for Montreal.
"Tonight was a real intense game and a great goaltending
duel,'' Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "The effort that the
guys gave was positive, and you have to be happy with it.''
Center Jan Bulis scored the only Montreal goal 5:22 into the
Three of Sarich's six career goals have been game-winners.
... A scattering of boos during the Canadian national anthem
quickly was silenced by applause. ... Tampa Bay RW Ruslan Fedotenko
returned with a face guard after having two teeth broken and taking
11 stitches in his lower lip during the first period. ... Thousands
of tickets remain for the first two Lightning playoff games since
1996. Sales began March 10. ... Lightning C Brad Richards and
Lecavalier had point-scoring streaks stopped at six and five games,
respectively. ... With an assist, Montreal C Saku Koivu has three
goals and three assists in four games against Tampa Bay. ... The
Lightning won the season series 3-0-1.