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Back at home in front of net

By JOANNE KORTH
Published June 8, 2004

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]

TAMPA - Nine days ago, Lightning wing Ruslan Fedotenko was slammed face-first into the boards, leaving a deep gash and nasty bruise on his right cheek.

He could have been wary.

But with the Stanley Cup at stake in Game 7, Fedotenko was back on familiar ground, a rough-and-tumble spot on the ice where good things happen to players who dare.

The situation

Midway through a scoreless first period, Tampa Bay's fourth line of center Martin Cibak and wings Chris Dingman and Ben Clymer was at it again, making life difficult for the Flames by keeping the puck in Calgary's zone. That's what unsung players do.

They grind. They battle. They irritate.

Then, out of nowhere, Dingman got a little nifty. The hulking wing intercepted an outlet pass just inside the Calgary blue line, but rather than simply fire the puck into a corner and give chase, Dingman opted to stick handle.

Say what?

"I don't expect that from myself, either," Dingman said. "I don't know what I was thinking. But it's great. I'm not a guy who's going to score a ton of goals, but you help out the team anyway you can, you get the other guys a power play."

Flames wing Oleg Saprykin slid, apparently to block the shot Dingman never took, and wound up taking the 6-foot-4, 240-pound forward's feet out from under him. The two-minute penalty for tripping gave the Lightning its second power play of the game at 11:59.

The play

Nearly 90 seconds into the man advantage, Brad Richards fired a wrist shot from the point that made it through to goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who made a right pad save. Though the unaltered shot was not hard for Kiprusoff to handle, it set the play in motion.

Fedotenko was parked in front.

Several times during the playoffs, Fedotenko made things happen by standing his ground in front of the opponent's net. His purpose is three-fold: to get a deflection, to create traffic, to be in position for a possible rebound. Though Fedotenko failed to get his stick on Richards' shot, he did get another opportunity to score.

After the initial shot went by him, Fedotenko, rather than stay tangled with Calgary forward Martin Gelinas close to the crease, backed away from the goal. When the long rebound from Richards' shot came to the slot, Fedotenko was waiting.

All alone.

The result

With a quick snap of his wrists, Fedotenko zipped the puck between Kiprusoff's legs. His 11th goal of the playoffs gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead at 13:31.

"I was trying to tip the shot but I missed it, so I just spun away a little bit to see if I could get the rebound," Fedotenko said. "The puck was right there and I just shot it right away."

Kiprusoff could not react.

"Fedotenko did a great job," Lightning TV analyst Bobby Taylor said. "When the shot came from the point he went right to the net, but then he backed off. That's how he got loose. Then he got the rebound and he has the greatest release. It's so fast and he gets such steam on it."

The effect

In every game, the team that scored first won. Fedotenko made sure that trend continued as he added insurance in the second. He gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead on a slap shot from the slot. The Flames, meanwhile, were forced to play come-from-behind hockey and ran out of time. The Lightning improved to 14-2 when scoring first.

[Last modified June 8, 2004, 01:10:08]

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