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'Bulin Wall makes 30 saves for Bolts

4/8/2004

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Martin St. Louis was more than happy to
surrender the spotlight to Nikolai Khabibulin.

And Andre Roy and Fredrik Modin, for that matter.

"We've got to be honest with ourselves. This wasn't our best
game. Khabby was the difference," St. Louis said after the Tampa
Bay Lightning opened the playoffs Thursday night with a 3-0 victory
over the New York Islanders.

"We can definitely improve. Hopefully we're on top of our game
on Saturday. We don't want to put that pressure on Khabby every
night."

With their goaltender rejecting everything the Islanders had to
offer, the Lightning didn't need a big night from St. Louis, the
NHL scoring champion this season.

The All-Star right wing was limited to just two shots -- both in
the third period -- and misfired on his best scoring chance when he
hit the crossbar on a breakaway in the first period.

Not to worry, Modin scored two goals and the little-used Roy
gave Tampa Bay an unexpected lift with an unassisted goal that
snapped a scoreless tie against Rick DiPietro, New York's young and
confident goaltender.

"It's not about who scores goals right now. It's about winning
and losing," St. Louis said. "If we go all the way and Andre has
10 goals, then perfect."

Shrugging off questions about past postseason struggles,
Khabibulin stopped 30 shots against the Islanders.

Khabibulin was 5-4-1 in his last 10 regular-season starts, but
reverted to the form that helped the Lightning emerge as the
league's hottest team in February and March. It was his first
playoff shutout since 1997.

"We have to play better, but Nik was outstanding," Lightning
coach John Tortorella said. "Obviously he was the key piece. That
was one of his better games."

The Lightning set franchise records for victories (46) and
points (106) on their way to earning the top seed in the East.

Still, the eighth-seeded Islanders' success against the
Lightning during the regular season, and Khabibulin's history of
playoff struggles, are factors that could make the best-of-seven
matchup very tight.

The Lightning will host Game 2 on Saturday.

New York won three of four from Tampa Bay during the regular
season with DiPietro going 2-1 and allowing four goals in three
games. The 22-year-old goalie had only 15 minutes of playoff
experience before Thursday, and he was done in by turnovers in
front of him that set up Tampa Bay's first two goals.

Islanders defenseman Eric Cairns gave away the puck both times --
first trying a pass across the ice that Roy stole before scoring,
then losing the puck as he skated around the back of the net and
leaving Modin in position to score midway through the second
period.

"We all make mistakes," New York coach Steve Stirling said.
"If we had the power play going earlier, we might get a goal and
it may not have happened."

Roy, who had one goal in 33 regular-season games, scored on his
second shift of the night after playing just 44 seconds in the
opening period. It was his first playoff goal in 13 games.

Modin added his second goal on a deflection in the third period.

The Islanders outshot the Lightning 21-10 in the first two
periods, but were unable to take advantage of five power-play
opportunities against Khabibulin, who was benched in the final
playoff game last year when Tampa Bay was eliminated by New Jersey
in the conference semifinals.

Tampa Bay managed just 18 shots against DiPietro, who four years
ago was the first goaltender to be selected No. 1 overall in the
NHL draft.

"It just seemed like we couldn't get a break," New York center
Dave Scatchard said.

"I thought we played a pretty good hockey game. A couple of
mistakes cost us. We're down 1-0. But like they say, it's a best of
seven. We've just got to play the same way and maybe capitalize a
little bit more and we'll be OK."

Game notes
Tampa Bay's Dave Andreychuk has played 1,597 regular-season
games, most by any active player without winning the Stanley Cup.
... The Islanders are in the playoffs for the third straight year,
but haven't advanced beyond the first round since the 1992-93
season. ... Khabibulin is 16-18 in 35 career playoff games.