CALGARY - Center Brad Richards admitted the Lightning will get zero style points for the way it played Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final.
"Very ugly," he said at one point.
"It wasn't pretty," he said at another.
But you know what? Tampa Bay will take its 1-0 victory over the Flames on Monday night at the Pengrowth Saddledome and cherish it as if it were its most perfectly played game.
The bottom line is the same.
The win not only tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece, Tampa Bay reclaimed home-ice advantage as two of the final three games are at the St. Pete times Forum.
Richards scored his 10th playoff goal and his NHL-record seventh winner with a five-on-three power-play goal 2:48 into the game. Nikolai Khabibulin improved to 6-0 in games after a loss and made 29 saves for his fifth shutout of the postseason.
And Tampa Bay got a huge break when it played the final 4:11 on a power play after Ville Nieminen received a five-minute major for elbowing Vinny Lecavalier's head into the side glass.
Lecavalier did not speak to reporters after the game, and coach John Tortorella declined to address it other than to say Lecavalier "will be fine." But defenseman Cory Sarich said, "Emotions run high. I'm not going to say whether it was dirty or clean, but we'll take it, thank you very much."
Give the Lightning credit for holding up under exasperating circumstances.
Already without 10-goal scorer Ruslan Fedotenko (lacerated right cheek), Tampa Bay also played without defenseman Pavel Kubina because of an undisclosed lower-body injury.
That forced right wing Ben Clymer and center Martin Cibak to play their first Stanley Cup final games. Both performed well. Clymer got 8:12 of ice time while Cibak got 7:16 and had two shots on goal.
"The focus tonight was making sure we were competing for the full 60 minutes," Sarich said. "We just wanted to spend as much time in their end as we could. Really takes the pressure off us as defensemen."
Richards did his part with his slap shot off a feed from Dave Andreychuk. The Lightning is 8-0 in the playoffs when Richards scores and 30-0-2 all season.
"I'd rather not talk about the game-winners anymore," said Richards, who broke the record of Colorado's Joe Sakic (1996) and Dallas' Joe Nieuwendyk (1999). "We won the game. It was a big goal for momentum."
The talk, though, was whether a five-on-three was warranted as referee Kerry Fraser called Mike Commodore for holding Fredrik Modin and Chris Clark for cross checking Nolan Pratt.
"What is a penalty in the second shift is not a penalty in the first shift," Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. "A penalty in the second shift, not a penalty in the third period. Whatever. It was a hell of a hockey game."
The Flames pressed throughout the game. And Calgary dominated territorially. There were times it kept the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods.
But Tampa Bay battled as hard as it has all series, especially below the defensive hash marks. Calgary had 29 shots and outshot the Lightning 12-5 in the third. But many shots came from the outside, where Khabibulin had a good look.
"It was a great team effort," Khabibulin said. "It always nice to get that first goal early in the game. But no matter what happens, I have to stay focused."
"I thought Nik was outstanding," Tortorella said. "To compete and stay within it here, your goaltender has to be your best player. I thought this was Nik's best game of this round."
Tampa Bay needs to do it again in Game 5. The team has not won consecutive games since Games 3 and 4 of the East semifinals.
Richards said it will take "urgency, desperation" and "a work ethic in which we block everything else out."
No need for it to be pretty. As Tortorella said about Game 4, "I thought it was really ugly at times. We score one. They don't score any. So we win. That's the way it goes."