LIGHTNING 5, DEVILS 4 (OT): Khabibulin comes in for 20 late saves; Ciger scores three.
By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 16, 2002
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- John Tortorella brought in his closer and got a save.
After watching the Devils score three goals in two periods on Kevin Weekes, the Lightning coach sent his No. 1 goaltender on the ice to preserve at least a point against New Jersey on Monday before an announced 11,731 at the Continental Airlines Arena.
Nikolai Khabibulin allowed one goal and stopped 20 other shots in the third period and Zdeno Ciger completed a hat trick, scoring 1:25 into overtime, to give the Lightning a 5-4 win.
Tampa Bay trailed Washington, New Jersey, Montreal, Buffalo and Pittsburgh in the race for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference entering Monday's game. Only eight points separated the six teams.
"Every game, we have to win," center Vincent Lecavalier said before the game. "We've got to get out there and play well and be aggressive.
"We can't stay on our heels and wait for teams. We've got to go after them. We've got to want it. If everyone works hard and goes in the right direction then we can get those big wins and get that eighth place and work from there."
Monday's game was the first in what could be a critical four-game stretch.
The Lightning plays one team (Chicago) that would make the playoffs in the West if the season ended today and two (Montreal, New Jersey) trying for that eighth playoff spot.
The Lightning, 12th in the conference before No. 13 Pittsburgh's late result at Vancouver, trailed the eighth-ranked Capitals and Devils by six points.
Christian Berglund, a rookie playing in his fourth game, scored his first goal 90 seconds in. Berglund skated toward a rebound from Jason Arnott and lifted it into the net.
The Lightning tied the score with 14:13 remaining in the period on a nearly identical play involving defenseman Jassen Cullimore and Ciger.
Cullimore's shot from the left faceoff circle bounced right off New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur's pads and slid to the right circle where Ciger scored his eighth of the season.
Nearly five minutes later on a power play, the Lightning took a 2-1 lead thanks to some crafty passing by Vinny Lecavalier.
Positioned behind the left side of the net, Lecavalier skated into slot and passed to right wing Martin St. Louis, who pushed it past Brodeur with 3:38 remaining.
Everything went haywire in the second period.
Center John Madden scored 38 seconds in to tie it. Twenty-two seconds after that, Ciger redirected a shot by Lecavalier in midair to make it 3-2.
Thirty-one seconds later, the Lightning took a 4-2 lead when Lecavalier intercepted a clearing pass from Brodeur, caught the goalie out of position and scored.
Lecavalier's first goal in 11 games came on the power play, where the Lightning was two for its past 21 through Sunday.
The Devils scored the fourth goal of the period with 15:38 left on a slap shot by right wing Petr Sykora that weaved through a maze of legs without touching any.
Weekes was pulled before the start of the third after stopping 16 of 19 shots.
Khabibulin's first test came with 13:15 remaining when he stopped a breakaway by New Jersey right wing Petr Sykora.
The Devils tied the score with 12:02 left on a goal by Patrik Elias, playing for the first time in six games.
By scoring five goals, Tampa Bay welcomed Columbus back to the scoring cellar. The Lightning had eight goals in the previous eight games. It has 90 for the season, one ahead of idle Columbus.
Tampa Bay's eighth road win topped its total from last season.