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Milestone energizes Lightning

LIGHTNING 3, DEVILS 1: Dave Andreychuk scores Nos. 600 and 601 to lift Tampa Bay.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 24, 2002


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dave Andreychuk is going to have to roll this one over in his mind for a while, because as the Lightning left wing said, "it's pretty hard to fathom."

But when Andreychuk takes a moment to reflect -- maybe when he woke up this morning, maybe when he is retired and relaxing somewhere on a boat -- it will fully dawn on him that he is one of the NHL's all-time elite.

Six hundred goals will do that for a player; 601 makes it even better.

The future Hall of Famer scored both Saturday night during Tampa Bay's energizing 3-1 victory over the Devils at Continental Airlines Arena to join 13 others who have reached the milestone.

"It kind of blows me away a little bit," Andreychuk said.

"It's a great honor to play with him," center Vinny Lecavalier said. "He's been a great part of the team, a great leader. He's really showing the way."

The game was important in a broader sense as well. The Lightning snapped a two-game losing streak, erased the memory of Thursday night's 7-2 loss to the Islanders and avenged last month's 5-1 loss to what is a very good New Jersey team that outshot Tampa Bay 33-23 on Saturday.

Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin put on a show, stopping 32 shots, including four dazzlers in a three-minute span of the second period to preserve a tie at 1, forged by Andre Roy's second-period goal.

"It was as solid as I've seen him play," coach John Tortorella said of Khabibulin. "He certainly was the difference tonight. We're not even close if Nik doesn't play the way he does."

And maybe Andreychuk's 600th isn't the winner, coming as it did 33 seconds into the third period to help Tampa Bay maintain a two-point lead over the Hurricanes atop the Southeast.

It was Andreychuk's 251st power-play goal, which extended his NHL record, and it came eight seconds after Khabibulin stopped John Madden's breakaway.

Vinny Prospal picked up the rebound and fed Andreychuk along the right wing. Andreychuk's wrist shot from the boards squirted between the legs of goalie Corey Schwab and gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead.

It was Andreychuk's eighth goal and his sixth on the power play.

"It was a big goal in the game," said Andreychuk, who scored his 500th at Continental Airlines Arena against the Capitals in March 1997 as a member of the Devils. "The power play was struggling and we talked about it between periods. 'Let's get the momentum, even if we don't score.' "

"He loves to score goals," said Devils coach Pat Burns, who coached Andreychuk with the Bruins and Maple Leafs. "He finds a way and it touches something, whether he gets his rear end in the way, he gets something in the way. Whether it's in practice or games, the man loves to score goals."

Andreychuk's teammates poured onto the ice to celebrate with him behind the net, delaying the game for more than a minute, which the team did not have permission from the league to do.

"We all wanted to be out there to celebrate," defenseman Cory Sarich said. "It was nice to go out there and give him a pat on the head and say congrats."

Khabibulin stayed in the Lightning net.

The goalie called Andreychuk "a real warrior," and said it is "an honor" to play with him," but added, "there was still a lot of hockey to play."

The Lightning played much better once Tortorella put Andreychuk on a line with Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis in the second period.

Lecavalier's effort to control the puck in the Devils zone earned him an assist on Andreychuk's second goal at 2:53. The goal tied him for 13th place with former Oilers great Jari Kurri on the all-time list.

St. Louis' perfect pass sprung Andreychuk free in the slot at 9:08. But Schwab, in his first game of the season in place of Martin Brodeur, who started the Devils' previous 17, got his stick on the backhander.

"He scored his 600th and I'm glad, and it's a great tribute to him, but I'm more happy as to how he helped us as a team," Tortorella said. "To find a way to win, you're answering. You stop a two-game losing streak and you get two points on the road."

And the team gets a lift to start a three-day trip to Atlantic City, where it will practice before Wednesday's game in Buffalo.

"We have a number of things we need to go over," Tortorella said. "It gives us a chance to catch our breath and have a couple of good days of practice and team bonding while feeling good about ourselves."

Andreychuk, 39 and in his 21st season, has to feel good about the contributions he made against New Jersey. He played 16:40, more than two minutes more than his average, and he had seven shots on goal, six in the third period.

"I could have probably gotten 606," Andreychuk joked.

On this night, Nos. 600 and 601 were just fine.


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