UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Desperation is a good thing in the
Stanley Cup playoffs.
After losing once at home to the New York Islanders, the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted to play as if every shift, shot and save could make the difference in their playoff series. So they scored early, then turned matters over to goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin in a 3-0 victory Monday night.
All three games have ended 3-0, and for Game 4 here Wednesday
night, both teams must be thinking that allowing even one goal can
"Nik was tremendous again," St. Louis said. "He was the Nos.
1-2-3 stars tonight. He was the difference.
"Our desperation was as high as I've seen it, and we need it
every shift. Teams will not go far in the playoffs if they are
There was nothing goofy about Khabibulin's third career playoff shutout.
He made the first save, then usually controlled the puck. His
teammates helped by quickly breaking out of the defensive zone most
of the night.
"We have to be pleased, no matter what happens," Khabibulin
said. "It's nice to get the win, but at the same time, we have to
get four wins."
Richards put the Lightning in front on a power play 3:40 into
the game. He was stationed in the slot when Dan Boyle passed from
the right point, and Richards deflected the puck off Islanders
goalie Rick DiPietro and it trickled into the net.
"We had the same type of opportunities in Game 2 and didn't
score," said Richards, who got his first playoff goal in 14 games.
"Tonight, the difference maybe was scoring in the first period."
Less than three minutes later, it was 2-0. St. Louis, the NHL's leading scorer this season with 94 points, got his first point of the series with a wrist shot from 15 feet. He was set up by some excellent work along the boards from linemates Richards and Fredrik Modin.
"If we play desperate like tonight, we'll be in good shape,"
St. Louis said.
Khabibulin kept it 2-0 with several superb first-period saves. His best came when he robbed Mark Parrish from close range on an Islanders power play, and he also handled a deft deflection by Dave Scatchard during a New York flurry.
Richards also put a wraparound attempt off the goal post while
Tampa Bay was short-handed.
Khabibulin was spectacular in the final minute of the second
period, turning aside a wave of dangerous shots, including two by
Mariusz Czerkawski and a slapper by Kenny Jonsson within seconds of
each other. Until then, the Islanders rarely came close to beating
the Russian goaltender.
"We were probably gripping our sticks a little tight,"
Islanders captain Michael Peca said. "We knew full well that they
were going to come out better than they have."
New York won both regular-season meetings at Nassau Coliseum, but Monday the Lightning showed why they were the Eastern Conference's best team. Six minutes into the final period, with Tampa Bay dominating the puck, the crowd began booing the home team -- except for DiPietro, who stopped a partial breakaway by Dmitry Afanasenkov, then blocked a rebound shot.
The fans got excited only sporadically, and when Khabibulin
allowed a rare rebound on Peca's shot, he stopped Parrish's attempt
midway in the third period. New York never really threatened
Khabibulin has stopped 80 shots in the series. ... Tampa is
2-for-16 on power plays; the Islanders are 1-for-11. ...
Lightning D Jassen Cullimore left in the second period with an
undisclosed injury. ... The Islanders have lost three straight
postseason home games. ... DiPietro made 21 saves.