Primeau Helps Flyers Tie Up Lightning
He Has Goal and Assist; Tampa Bay Loses Its First Road Playoff Game : Flyers 3, Lightning 2
Sunday, May 16, 2004; Page E02
PHILADELPHIA, May 15 -- Keith Primeau isn't thinking about missing the World Cup of Hockey. He's doing his best to get the Philadelphia Flyers into the Stanley Cup finals.
Primeau scored a short-handed goal and set up another score, leading the Flyers past the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, Saturday to tie the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.
Left off Canada's roster announced Saturday for the World Cup, Primeau has been perhaps the NHL's best player in the playoffs, scoring seven goals and adding four assists in 15 games.
"I didn't know until after the game," Primeau said of the omission. "I wasn't expecting to be nominated. I'm fine with it."
Mark Recchi and John LeClair also scored for the Flyers, who improved to 7-1 at home this postseason.
Fredrik Modin and Vincent Lecavalier had goals for the Lightning, which lost for the first time in six road playoff games.
Game 5 will be Tuesday in Tampa.
"At the end of the day, it's a loss and that's that," Lightning defenseman Darryl Sydor said. "We have to regroup for Game 5 at home. The next game is just huge."
Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 19,872 that was decked in orange T-shirts reading, "Orange Crush," the Flyers scored two goals in a span of 11/2 minutes to erase a 1-0 deficit.
Robert Esche, coming off a poor outing in which he allowed two soft goals, stopped 28 shots, helping the Flyers overcome seven power plays for the Lightning.
Lecavalier scored a power-play goal with 33 seconds left, but Primeau blocked a pass and helped the Flyers control the puck the final 30 seconds.
"He's really taken charge of a lot of games," LeClair said of Primeau. "He was the difference out there every time he was on the ice."
Primeau, the Flyers' captain, scored three goals to lead Philadelphia to a 7-2 victory over Toronto in Game 5, and he has been a dominant physical force throughout the postseason.
"There are certain stages of a critical playoff series when a captain has to step up and he stepped up again," Flyers Coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Just 33 seconds after Vladimir Malakhov went to the penalty box for crosschecking, Primeau gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead midway through the second period. Catching the puck in the Flyers' zone after Dave Andreychuk turned it over, Primeau put it down, broke in with Simon Gagne, forced defenseman Dan Boyle to slide toward Gagne and wristed a shot past Nikolai Khabibulin and just under the crossbar.
"The defenseman took a step toward Gags and I had no choice but to shoot it," Primeau said.
Recchi had made it 2-1 with 1 minute 40 seconds left in the first period, deflecting a slap shot by Mattias Timander off Khabibulin's glove and into the net.
Soon after the Flyers killed off consecutive penalties, LeClair tied it at 1 with his second goal in three games. Primeau set it up by picking up a loose puck along the left boards, skating in and dropping a perfect pass for LeClair, who one-timed it past Khabibulin.
Modin opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first period. Less than a minute after Gagne received a double-minor for high-sticking, Modin put in a rebound off a slap shot by Pavel Kubina.
"We did the things we wanted to do, but we just didn't get the goals at the right time," Andreychuk said.
Note: The Flyers lost defenseman Joni Pitkanen and forward Jeremy Roenick to "upper-body injuries," but Hitchcock said both are expected to play in Game 5. Pitkanen was playing for Marcus Ragnarsson, who is out for the rest of the playoffs after breaking his left index finger in Game 3.
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