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FLYERS 7, LIGHTNING 3 // OPENING-NIGHT JITTERS

So this is what this post-season thing is all about. Maybe golf doesn't sound so bad this time of year after all, eh?

The Lightning might be thinking that after its first taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs, a bitter 7-3 loss to the Flyers on Tuesday before a sellout crowd of 17,380 at the CoreStates Spectrum.

"I never dreamed anything like that could happen," wing Shawn Burr said.

"They did to us what we would have liked to have done to them," Tampa Bay coach Terry Crisp said. "They flipped the game plan on us."

Philadelphia indeed did what Tampa Bay feared most in Game 1 of this first-round best-of-seven Eastern Conference series, jumping all over the post-season neophyte Lightning a couple of different ways.

One was offensive: A goal by Dale Hawerchuk in the first 55 seconds and two more, one each from Joel Otto and Trent Klatt, before the first period was seven minutes old.

"Our defense corps made blunders in the first period _ all of them _ that they hadn't made all year," Crisp said. "And when we made them, the Flyers jammed it right down our throats."

The other was personal: Philadelphia, as expected, was physical, hitting and pounding and doing all it could to exploit its sizable size advantage.

"Every time we turned around," Burr said, "they had our faces 2 inches from the glass."

"They came out flying," said smallish Lightning center John Cullen (who is 5 feet 10, compared to 6-4 Eric Lindros and 6-2 John LeClair). "They're a big team, and they hit us. I think we were a little bit tentative. We have to hit back."

And tighten up on defense, too.

Less than two minutes after Lindros fed LeClair for a breakaway early in the second, bombarded Lightning goalie Daren Puppa was pulled in favor of backup Jeff Reese.

"It took a lot out of them right away," LeClair said. "We played our game, and everybody started feeding off it."

Reese didn't fare much better than Puppa, giving up goals to Lindros and Pat Falloon during his first seven minutes as the Flyers, seeded No. 1 in the East, went up 6-0.

"We just came out and gave them way too much respect," Burr said. "We just sat back and said, "Okay Eric, okay LeClair. Bring it on.' And then we watched."

The eighth-seed Lightning got two goals late in the middle period. Jason Wiemer deflected a David Shaw power-play shot from the right point past Flyers goalie Ron Hextall; 78 seconds later, Mikael Andersson one-timed a Rob Zamuner pass.

Cullen scored at 4:01 of the third to make it 6-3, but by then Philadelphia was comfortably ahead and perhaps looking forward to Thursday night's Game 2 at the Spectrum. The series then continues with Game 3 Sunday at the ThunderDome.

Hawerchuk scored Philadelphia's first by knocking in a pass from LeClair after LeClair rebounded his own shot from in close. Puppa faced eight shots (the Lightning had just one) in the game's first eight minutes.

Puppa did not stand a chance on the second goal, Otto's change-of-direction deflection from the slot of an Eric Desjardins power-play shot from the left point; or the third, a one-on-two transition shot by Klatt that knocked the stick out of the hands of Roman Hamrlik.

"You know Puppa is a good goaltender," Flyers coach Terry Murray said. "We wanted to get right on top of him, and we did."

When LeClair raced behind Lightning defenseman Rudy Poeschek and beat Puppa one-on-one at 3:41 of the middle period, Crisp had seen enough, sending in Reese. Yet he did not pin all of Tampa Bay's woes on the veteran, who came into the game with five regular-season shutouts and the NHL's second-best save percentage.

Lindros and Falloon both beat Reese on odd-man opportunities, the latter prompted by a Hamrlik turnover and leaving the Lightning shell-shocked.

When Rod Brind'Amour scored after a goal-mouth scramble in the third, the Flyers had their seventh: seven goals by seven different Flyers.

"Our dressing room realizes now that the level of play in the playoffs jumps that much higher," Crisp said. "and we have to jump with it."

Otherwise, it's the Flyers in ... Fore.

Key stats

LIGHTNING FLYERS

Goals 3 7

Shots 17 32

Scoring 8 22

chances

Penalty 28 26

minutes

Power play 1-6 2-7

Power play 4 8

shots

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