Khabibulin made 33 saves for his second straight shutout at
Nassau Coliseum, and St. Louis' third goal in two games pushed the
Tampa Bay Lightning within one victory of the second round with a
3-0 win Wednesday night over the Islanders.
"He's just shutting the door," said Lightning forward Fredrik Modin, who had a goal and an assist.
St. Louis' short-handed goal in the first period set the tone
for the fourth straight 3-0 game in the series. The flashy forward
had an NHL-best 94 points this season and led the league with eight
short-handed goals and 11 short-handed points.
"We are getting better and better as the playoffs go on,"
forward Tim Taylor said.
Ruslan Fedotenko also scored and Brad Richards had two assists
for the Lightning, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-1. They can
advance to the second round for the second straight year and second
time ever with a home victory Friday.
Should the Islanders win, Game 6 will be back on Long Island on
"This was a must win for them," St. Louis said. "We knew they
were going to empty the tank, and we have to empty the tank
ourselves, and more. You don't want to give them a chance; you
don't want to give them any breathing area."
Khabibulin got his third shutout of the series. He has been
unbeatable at Nassau Coliseum, where the Islanders won 25 home
games -- tops in the Eastern Conference.
"Winning that game on Monday was big, and to back it up tonight,
it's even bigger," St. Louis said. "Monday means nothing if you
don't back it up."
But the Islanders, who won three of four regular-season games
against the top-seeded Lightning, not only couldn't win at home,
they couldn't even score.
"We're making it too easy for Tampa; we're wasting energy on
ourselves," Islanders captain Michael Peca said. "Everybody has
to have commitment, and if they don't, I'll be the first one to get
in their face and tell them how disappointed I am."
New York hasn't scored since Jason Blake sealed the Game 2
victory with an empty-net goal in the final minute.
St. Louis was held without a point in the first two games, when
the teams split victories at Tampa Bay. But he had two goals Monday
and took the steam out of the crowd again Wednesday when he turned
an Islanders power play into a 1-0 lead for the Lightning.
"That was a big goal," said St. Louis, who scored 38 in the
regular season. "I'm happy not just to strip him but to finish the
play as well."
The fans had been in a frenzy as the Islanders controlled play
in the period. They even got to cheer tough guy Steve Webb, back in
the lineup for the first time since Game 1 with the hopes his
energetic play would provide a spark.
But all the Islanders had to show for a period in which they
outshot the Lightning 12-6 was a deficit.
Shawn Bates had a couple of scoring chances that fizzled
quickly, one in the first when a shot dribbled off his stick that
broke on contact, and another drive that was blocked in the second.
Richards nearly gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead midway through the
second, but he hit the post when he came in on a two-on-one. Given
another chance late in the period, Richards decided to pass across
to Fedotenko, who slammed a shot past DiPietro.
Just 1:34 into the third, St. Louis dropped a pass for Modin,
who blasted in his third goal of the series. Tampa Bay finished
with 20 shots and was outshot for the fourth straight game.
"They've been outshooting us, but I still think that we're
outchancing them," Taylor said.
The last time a series began with four shutouts was in
2002, in a series between Ottawa and Philadelphia. .... Lightning D
Jassen Cullimore didn't play after being injured in the second
period Monday. He was replaced by Nolan Pratt, making his first
appearance in the series. ... A series hadn't had four consecutive
games with the same score since Buffalo and Montreal played to 4-3
decisions in 1993. ... C Cliff Ronning was scratched to make room
for Webb. ... Tampa Bay LW Cory Stillman sustained a lower body
injury on his first shift and didn't return. ... The Islanders had
never been shut out three times in a series.