Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Lightning reaches Stanley Cup finals

CONFERENCE FINAL Ruslan Fedotenko and Fredrik Modin scored and Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 21 shots as the Lightning closed out the Flyers' series

AP , TAMPA, FLORIDA

Martin St. Louis of the Lightning shakes hands with fans as he exits the arena after the a 2-1 victory against the Flyers after Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Tampa, Florida, Saturday. Tampa will now face Calgary in the Stanley Cup Finals.

PHOTO: EPA

Given a second chance to clinch their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning redeemed themselves.

Ruslan Fedotenko and Fredrik Modin scored and Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 21 shots as the Lightning rebounded from a disappointing loss in the Eastern Conference finals and beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in Game 7 on Saturday night.

The victory sends Dave Andreychuk and the Lightning into the Cup finals against the Calgary Flames, who won the Western Conference title in six games over San Jose. Game 1 is Tuesday night in Tampa.

Andreychuk, in his 22nd season, has played more regular season games (1,597) than any other active player without appearing in the Cup finals. Two other teams he played on -- Toronto in 1993 and Colorado in 2000 -- lost Game 7 of the conference finals.

"So far, one more step to take," the 40-year-old Andreychuk said. "This team should be very proud of themselves and what they've done."

The Flyers were denied their first trip to the finals since 1997, but didn't go down without a fight after rallying to tie Game 6 late in regulation and win it in overtime. Keith Primeau and Simon Gagne saved Philadelphia's season on Thursday, and goalie Robert Esche kept Game 7 from getting out of hand.

Fedotenko's deflection on the power play gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead late in the first period. Modin scored 4:57 into the second to make it 2-0 and whip a sellout crowd of 22,117 for Tampa Bay's first Game 7 into a frenzy.

Kim Johnsson's goal trimmed Philadelphia deficit to 2-1 midway through the second, and Esche stopped 17 shots in the period to keep the Flyers in the game.

The teams were so evenly matched that neither was able to win consecutive games in the series.

"It was unbelievable," Tampa Bay's Brad Richards said. "It was a tough series, so many ups and downs."

Tampa Bay won Games 1, 3 and 5 to take a 3-2 lead into Game 6 in Philadelphia and was on the verge of making the Cup finals in just their third playoff appearance when Primeau and Gagne saved the Flyers.

The Lightning were less than two minutes from putting the series away when Philadelphia's persistence paid off. Primeau tied it with 1:49 remaining in the third period to force overtime. Gagne's goal at 18:18 of overtime extended the series.

"Things happen for a reason, and I truly felt we needed to play Game 7 as a team and see how we would respond and we responded well," Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said.

Tampa Bay faulted itself for allowing Philadelphia to dictate the tempo in the third period and overtime of Game 6 and vowed to not let it happen again Saturday.

"We came out hard and kept going even after they scored the goal," St. Louis said.

Although the Flyers dominated much of the opening period, they were 0-of-2 on the power play. Philadelphia fell behind 1-0 when Fedotenko scored on Tampa Bay's first chance with a man advantage.

The goal, with 3:14 left in the period, came with Primeau in the penalty box for high-sticking. Richards' slap shot from the right point hit St. Louis and deflected off Fedotenko's stick past Esche, who was shielded from the puck.

But unlike Game 6 when they sat on a one-goal lead, the Lightning continued to play aggressively.

Jassen Cullimore, who returned after missing 12 games in the postseason with a wrist injury, dug the puck out from the side of the net and tapped it through the crease to Modin. His seventh goal of the playoffs made it 2-0 less than five minutes into the second period.

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