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Taylor blasts officiating

Times staff writers
Published May 27, 2004

So much for keeping the referees on your good side. Lightning center Tim Taylor described the clutching and grabbing he said was allowed to occur in Game 1 with an expletive. And Lightning coach John Tortorella and general manager Jay Feaster met Wednesday with NHL supervisor of officials Andy VanHellemond. While team spokesman Bill Wickett said, "We will not discuss anything that was discussed in that meeting," after listening to Taylor, it can be assumed it wasn't to say "good job."

"Once again, a team says they are not a trap team," Taylor said. "They are definitely a trap team. The way they play, I see us going back as a league another five or six years back to the old trap and not calling clutching and grabbing. This is a time for the league to really step up and do a job calling the game the way it's supposed to be called."

Referees Bill McCreary and Stephen Walkom called 11 minor penalties, which resulted in nine power plays, five for Tampa Bay. "There is only so much you can talk to the referees about," Taylor said. "But we will as a team try to get it out. We talked about it during preseason. They make all these calls, and as the season progresses, they seem to tail off, tail off."

VanHellemond could not be reached for comment. NHL spokesman Gary Meagher declined comment on what was discussed.

Khabibulin: I have to be better

Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin contemplated his fall after stopping Jarome Iginla's short-handed breakaway and admitted it was not one of his more graceful moments.

"Not a good thing to do," Khabibulin said.

Especially considering Iginla put the rebound past Khabibulin for a backbreaking 2-0 second-period lead. Khabibulin, who made 15 saves, was not the reason Tampa Bay lost Game 1, but he said he fought the puck a bit and suffered from the same lack of energy and focus as his teammates.

"I don't like to use excuses," Khabibulin said. "But I think some of it was maybe because we had an emotional game versus the Flyers in Game 7 at home. But I don't want to use it as an excuse. We lost the first game. Now we have to get the next one."

Tortorella said he is confident Khabibulin will bounce back as he did after being pulled from Game 2 against the Flyers, in which he gave up four goals on 12 shots. Khabibulin made 24 saves in Game 3, a 4-1 Tampa Bay victory.

"The last time I saw Nik fight it in this playoff, I liked his response," Tortorella said. "So I don't even worry about that. He will be our best player and lead us in our response in Game 2."

A natural captain

Iginla and Flames center Craig Conroy are best friends. So Conroy said it was no big deal for him to hand over the captaincy to Iginla before the season.

"We're a young team. We have a lot of new players, and it would be a good thing for him to be the guy," Conroy said. "It's worked out great. I should have given it to him a couple of years ago."

Conroy said the job pushed Iginla to elevate his game. Iginla, who has a playoff-high 11 goals, wasn't so sure.

"I think over the years, feeling more confident and being kind of in that leadership role," he said, "I think it's been a progression over the years that's helped the confidence; also preparation and trying to be consistent."

Conroy vs. Iginla

Conroy's last fight, as a member of the Blues on Oct. 26, 2000, was against Iginla.

"He beat me up," Conroy said. "I thought, "Even these scorers can beat me up. This fighting thing is for the birds."'

Conroy was traded to the Flames in March 2001 for Cory Stillman, now with the Lightning. Conroy said he and Iginla became friends from "just kind of hanging out. We were going to dinners and doing different things. We're pretty inseparable."

Good thing.

"He's pretty strong," Conroy said.

Fatigue not a factor ... yet

Calgary defensemen Andrew Ference, Rhett Warrener and Robyn Regehr played more than 25 minutes in Game 1, but the Flames were careful to rotate seven defenders. Seventh man Mike Commodore saw spot duty with six shifts for 3:25.

The Lightning wore down a depleted Flyers defense over the course of seven games, but forward Martin St. Louis said Tampa Bay missed an opportunity to force the Flames defensemen to expend energy during Game 1. The Lightning, he said, needs to force the Calgary defense to play deep in its zone and battle in the corners.

"You have to make it tough every night on the defensemen," St. Louis said. "Sometimes, chipping the puck in for a couple of cycles is better than just trying to create in open ice. Sometimes when you try to create in open ice, you turn the puck over and they go the other way. You didn't get that chance to wear the defensemen down."

Game 1 draws small audience

ESPN got a 1.1 rating, or about 1.013-million viewers, for Game 1, tied for the worst final, according to Nielsen Media Research. Only Game 2 last year was lower. The 1.1 was down 21 percent from last year's 1.4 for Game 1. In the home cities, however, the numbers were strong.

In Tampa Bay, it posted a 12.2 rating, equal to about 200,600 households (each rating point is equal to 16,443 homes). That was the second-best number posted in primetime, behind only Fox's American Idol, which had a 17.3 from 8-9 p.m. In Calgary, which is not rated by Nielsen, the game was the second-highest rated NHL game on CBC, drawing more than 3-million viewers. Only the Rangers' 3-2 win over Vancouver in Game 7 of the 1994 final had a larger audience.

Waiting for a wager

Gov. Jeb Bush has extended a friendly wager to his Alberta counterpart, Ralph Klein, over the outcome of the series but has not heard back. Bush offered a real Florida dinner, including conch chowder, crab cakes, shrimp boil and Key lime pound cake. He also plans to attend tonight's game.

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