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No surprise: Special teams swing game

In just 13 seconds with the man advantage in the first period, the Lightning cash in and begin the route to the final.

JOANNE KORTH
Published May 23, 2004

TAMPA - Thirteen seconds.

That's all the time it took for Tampa Bay to cash in on its first power-play chance of Game 7.

All the time it took to take control of the decisive game of the East Conference final.

The Lightning was on its way to the Stanley Cup final.

THE SITUATION: Philadelphia controlled the tempo for the first 12 minutes, much of which was spent in the Lightning zone. The Flyers were aggressive with their forecheck and, as was the case all series, physical in battling the Lightning for possession.

But, as so often is the case, special teams turned the momentum. After killing two minor penalties in the first 12:26, the Lightning got their first man advantage when Flyers captain Keith Primeau, the most dominating player of the series, made a mistake.

Battling along the boards with Cory Stillman, Primeau was called for high sticking at 16:33.

In 13 seconds, the complexion of the game changed.

THE PLAY: With a faceoff to goaltender Robert Esche's left, the Flyers' Michal Handzus beat Dave Andreychuk on the draw, but the Lightning's Ruslan Fedotenko got to the puck behind the net and cycled it midway up the the boards to Andreychuk.

The puck came off the boards, where Flyers defenseman Vladimir Malakhov gained control and attempted to fire it down the ice.

The key to the play, according to Lightning TV analyst Bobby Taylor, was Richards using his body to block Malakhov's clearing attempt at the blue line, keeping the puck in the Philadelphia zone.

As soon as Fedotenko saw Richards keep the play alive, he skated directly to the front of the net, where good things have been happening lately for the left winger. This time was no exception.

Richards drifted a few feet toward the middle of the ice and fired a thigh-high shot at Esche.

Along the way, the puck hit the blade of St. Louis' stick and the shaft of Fedotenko's. The contact with Fedotenko's stick caused the puck to redirect upward.

Boom, boom, boom.

Esche had no chance.

THE RESULT: The goal, which tied Fedotenko for the team lead in the playoffs with Vinny Lecavalier at nine, gave the Lightning the all-important first goal of the game with 3:14 left in the first period. The Lightning are 10-2 when scoring first.

In Game 7, Tampa Bay never trailed.

THE EFFECT: The Lightning power play simply sizzled the whole series against the Flyers, going nine for 26. When Richards, St. Louis and Fedotenko combined to convert just 13 seconds into Tampa Bay's first man advantage of the game, it temporarily took the wind out of the Flyers.

After controlling the first 12 minutes, Philly did not register a shot in the final eight minutes of the period. After the Lightning's power play goal, the Flyers were not as aggressive on the puck, perhaps knowing they could not afford to take another penalty.

"In the back of their minds they were probably thinking, "If we get a penalty it will be bad,' " Taylor said. "They weren't backing off a great deal, but they were not as aggressive on the puck as they were in the first 11 or 12 minutes of the period."

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