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Open and shut out

The Capitals convert their scoring chances, and Olaf Kolzig stymies the Lightning.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 11, 2003


TAMPA -- The beauty of a seven-game series is if you don't get it right the first time, you get a do-over.

As Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Lukowich said, "The sun will come up tomorrow."

And when it does, the Lightning hopes it will shed a little more light on what went wrong during Thursday's 3-0 loss to the Capitals in Game 1 of the East quarterfinals.

One thing is for sure. It is playing in front of a tough crowd. As time wound down, elements of what was left of the sellout of 20,214, ThunderStix-slamming fans began to boo.

Kind of harsh considering the Lightning is a division champ for the first time and advanced to the postseason for the first time in seven years.

But those are the expectations it has created.

"I look for them to step up and accept the challenge," coach John Tortorella said of his players. "That's why it's a series. This isn't football. It's not one-and-out. It's a series. We plan to play it as a series, so we're going to get to work (today) and get ready for Saturday."

Rarely do so many aspects of a game play out as the story lines were written.

The Lightning, the fourth-youngest team in the league, admitted some of its players were tight. And the veteran Capitals showed patience, played well with the lead and waited for Tampa Bay mistakes.

The talk about a stout Capitals defense was not misplaced. It played smart, holding up Tampa Bay players just enough not to get called for penalties but enough to make it difficult for them to retrieve the puck.

When the Lightning did have possession, Washington did such a good job clearing the slot, most of Tampa Bay's shots were from the outside and unscreened.

That made life simple for goalie Olaf Kolzig, who made 28 saves for his sixth playoff shutout while allowing few rebounds.

"A few of us were frustrated," Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle said. "You'd go three, four, five, six shifts, and nothing was happening. That gets pretty frustrating."

As it said it would, the Lightning hit Jaromir Jagr and held him to one shot. But Robert Lang stepped in with two goals.

He admitted the first-period goal was lucky as he batted the puck out of the air and past Nikolai Khabibulin after Dainius Zubrus' pass deflected off Lukowich's stick.

The one with 2:03 left in the second, which came after a turnover by Lightning defenseman Jassen Cullimore and made it 2-0, was like a kick in Tampa Bay's gut.

The Lightning never kicked back.

It had a few chances. Brad Richards stole a puck in the slot, but Kolzig made a glove save to preserve a 1-0 lead 7:09 into the second.

Kolzig kept the status quo again at 14:52, when he sprawled forward and dragged his left leg to stop a backhander by Vinny Lecavalier (a game-high six shots), who took a pinpoint backhand pass from Vinny Prospal in front of the Capitals net.

"I'm lucky I have long legs," the 6-foot-3 Kolzig said. "He got the puck and came to my right, and I was going with him. He tried to put it in the short side."

"I don't think you can get frustrated," Tortorella said. "You've got to stay within the team concept and just find a way to grab some momentum with a goal, a big goal at a big time in the game. I think that will loosen some guys up."

Easier said than done, but the players appeared to see the light.

Cullimore said when players go after the puck on a dump-in and try to get to the net, they must keep their legs churning. That way, if they are held up, the referees can see it more clearly.

Captain Dave Andreychuk said it is imperative Tampa Bay clog the slot so Kolzig can't see shots so easily.

"Second and third efforts have to come into it," he said.

And get rid of the nerves. With one game under its belt, the Lightning knows what to expect. It better react accordingly.

Do-overs are not unlimited.

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