TAMPA - The first instinct was to say it was inevitable.
After eight consecutive victories, you had to figure the Lightning was due for a stinker. And Monday night's 6-2 loss to the Flyers in Game 2 of the East final in front of 21,314 at the St. Pete Times Forum, was perfectly suited for holding one's nose.
But inevitable? Captain Dave Andreychuk said that is what you say about humidity in Florida.
"You never think that way in the playoffs," he said. "You never have that attitude that it's okay. It's not okay. But it's over. We're going to take it, swallow it and move on."
The Flyers, who evened the best-of-seven series at one game, scored three times in the first 11:17 and led 6-0 by the time Ruslan Fedotenko and Martin St. Louis scored in the third.
Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, he of the 1.00 goals-against average and .963 save percentage, allowed four goals on 12 shots and was pulled for John Grahame 6:02 into the second period.
Only one of the goals was clearly Khabibulin's fault, but it set the tone as John LeClair slipped the puck through his legs 1:53 into the game. Vladimir Malakhov's goal on a wrist shot from the point made the score 4-0 and ended a remarkable run for Khabibulin, who had allowed just 10 goals in 10 previous playoff games.
More notable was the way the Flyers came out with intensity the Lightning could not match.
And after goals by Mark Recchi and Sami Kapanen made the score 3-0, an even more difficult defensive atmosphere was created because Tampa Bay gambled and pushed the defense up the ice even farther, which made Philadelphia's counters easier.
"We really wanted to set the tempo tonight," Recchi said. "We really wanted to prove that we can play. We're going to compete, and we're going to be a very hard team to play against."
"What happened in that first period is what we'll take to Philadelphia," Andreychuk said about Thursday's Game 3. "Those goals at the end don't mean much. We found out what we have to do against a team that's going to come out and play desperate,"
And what of the nastiness in the third?
Twenty-five penalties were called, including a game misconduct on Lightning wing Andre Roy, and six 10-minute misconducts, including a double 10-minute on Philadelphia's Donald Brashear with 54.7 seconds left. That's 118 penalty minutes and 130 in the game. The 72 on the Lightning were a team record for a home playoff game.
"That's what happens in a series," St. Louis said. "We expect the same (in Philadelphia) and more."
"If we can win our home games, we have a chance," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We deserve to win based on our performance."
It started with LeClair's first goal of the postseason, escalated with Recchi's power-play goal and reached a crescendo with Kapanen's shorthanded goal off a two-on-one.
Though St. Louis scored his first goal in six games, he was a team-worst minus-3.
"We didn't expect to win four straight," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We knew it was going to be a long series. We'll definitely not get too low. We'll learn from it."
Still, there are some emotions to work through.
The Lightning had not lost since Game 2 of the East quarterfinals against the Islanders and had not allowed six goals since last season's quarterfinals against the Capitals.
"It was definitely a shock," center Brad Richards said.
"The bottom line," St. Louis said, "is we have to take the positives out of the game and carry on. We could have lost 11-0 in this game, and it would still be just one game."
Andreychuk said he wanted to play the Flyers again Monday night.