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Khabibulin modest in tie

The goalie, who has the second-longest unbeaten streak this season, credits his teammates for the point.

By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 30, 2003


TAMPA -- Of Nikolai Khabibulin's 29 saves in the Lightning's tie at 1 with Florida on Saturday, four were in overtime, including a spectacular pad save on a two on one. Icing on the cake, as far as he was concerned.

"I think any shot in regulation was a better save than in overtime," Khabibulin said, "because we were already guaranteed a point."

Khabibulin matched Roberto Luongo save for save, keeping Tampa Bay in the game until Martin St. Louis tipped in Brad Richards' shot from the left circle with 30.6 seconds left.

Khabibulin's play, and the Lightning's penalty-killing unit, helped earn a point in a game in which it generally outplayed the Panthers despite being short-handed much of the time.

"We had 21 chances, and Luongo was the story," Lightning coach John Tortorella said.

Khabibulin said he wasn't concerned about outplaying the Florida goalie, who stopped 39 shots.

"I'm trying not to really think about it," Khabibulin said. "I'm trying to stay within myself, focus on what I have to do. Some games, other goalies are going to be great."

Khabibulin was equally outstanding. He stopped Olli Jokinen from close range with 5:57 to play in the second and then prevented Kristian Huselius' short-handed breakaway. With Jay Bouwmeester and Niklas Hagman bearing down on him late in overtime, Khabibulin made a pad save to rob Bouwmeester.

Khabibulin's play was all the more impressive considering the Lightning spent 24 minutes short-handed.

Tampa Bay killed seven of eight Panthers power plays, including four-minute penalties on Andre Roy and Alexander Svitov.

"Everybody did what they had to do," Khabibulin said. "They were blocking shots, putting the sticks in the passing lanes, tried to keep everything outside, and that definitely helps."

Khabibulin allowed only Jokinen's power-play goal 1:07 into the third. With Tim Taylor serving a cross-checking penalty that carried over from the second, Viktor Kozlov slid a cross-ice pass to an open Jokinen, who tapped the puck in the net from Khabibulin's left.

"Luongo and Khabibulin both played really well," Florida coach Mike Keenan said. "Khabibulin made some incredible saves also on the other end."

Khabibulin has not lost in 15 starts, the longest active streak in the league and second-longest this season, behind Dallas' Marty Turco (16). Khabibulin has an 11-0-4 record during that stretch.

"I feel more comfortable right now than I felt before," Khabibulin said. "I feel better overall."

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