St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Safety forgotten in victory

A sign became a motto as Game 6 lessons come to fruition in Game 7.

Published May 23, 2004

TAMPA - Lightning coach John Tortorella walked into the locker room. This was the second intermission. This was 48 hours after the most heartbreaking loss in team history. This was a mere two days after the Lightning blew a third-period lead and, quite possibly, missed its only chance at getting to the Stanley Cup final.

He said, "You should never feel more confident in yourselves than you do right now."

He then pointed at a sign that hangs in the room: SAFE IS DEATH.

This time would be different. This time there would be no squandered lead. This time, the Lightning would win.

Instead of sitting back waiting for something bad to happen, the Lightning made sure something good happened instead. Faced with the same situation as Game6, the Lightning took a one-goal lead into the third. In Game6, it folded, allowing a tying goal with 1:49 left then losing in overtime. In Game7, there was no overtime. There was no tying goal.

"I think about 10 guys were walking around saying, "Safe is death,' " Lightning center Vinny Lecavalier said.

Leading the chant was captain Dave Andreychuk.

"A lot was said amongst the players and a lot of guys spoke, not just me," Andreychuk said. "We're not going to lose this game. We're in control. We were very aware of what happened in Philadelphia."

What happened in Philadelphia seemed like a cruel dream. The Lightning could see its destination, but backed away from it. Literally.

"In Game6, we played not to lose instead of playing to win," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We knew we couldn't do that again. This time, we had to play like we wanted it."

The Lightning did just that, even outshooting the Flyers 8-7 in the third.

"It was a lesson learned," center Brad Richards said. "You can live with yourself if you try to win. We didn't try to win (Game 6). (Saturday) we rebounded very well and took it to them."

Just as impressive as the Lightning's third-period play was its ability to wake itself from the nightmare of Game6 and not allow it to haunt them in Game7.

"To be honest, that Game6 loss was probably one of the most emotional losses I have ever been involved in," Tortorella said. "For them to answer, it isn't physical. It's a mental toughness."

One might think the Lightning would have erased Game6 from its memory as soon as possible. Instead of walking away, though, as if nothing had happened, the Lightning looked its demons right in the eye.

"Coming off Game6 was hard for us," forward Fredrik Modin said. "It would be hard for any team to have a chance to finish it off and (you) don't do it. ... Everybody came in with the right mind going into the game."

And the right mind in the third period.

"In Philadelphia, I clock-watched a little big as the game went down," Andreychuk said. "I did not clock-watch (Saturday). ... I just felt like that now is our time. They were not going to be able to come back on us this time."

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.