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LIGHTNING 2, FLYERS 1 // Lightning strikes back

Published Jul. 6, 2006

Physical play, great goaltending, timely offense: The Lightning got everything Thursday it did not have Tuesday.

Even _ believe it _ a victory.

"This morning," Tampa Bay coach Terry Crisp said, "there wasn't much hope."

Thursday night, the Lightning realized the sliver that there was: Post-season veteran Brian Bellows scored with 10:55 left in the first overtime of the Lightning's second NHL playoff game, giving Tampa Bay a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia at the CoreStates Spectrum and sending this first-round Eastern Conference series to the ThunderDome for Sunday's Game 3 tied 1-1.

Bellows took a pass from linemate Chris Gratton, who had intercepted the puck from Philadelphia defenseman Kevin Haller, and raced down the middle to beat Flyers goalie Ron Hextall with the biggest goal in Lightning history.

"I had a feeling he was going through the middle with that pass," Gratton said, "and I just stuck my stick out and there it was."

Gratton spotted Bellows in an instant, and hit him with what he called an awful pass: "He put his stick up and was waving. I definitely knew he was there. Somehow he got the puck from me and put it in like only he could. He's a goal scorer."

"It's a great pass _ for Grats," cracked Bellows, a Stanley Cup finalist when he played for Minnesota and a Cup winner with Montreal three seasons ago. "He knew. He knew I wanted it, and put a great little backhand chip right on my forehand."

Bellows allowed his experience to squelch a temptation to fire away and allowed the puck to settle before he shot through the pads of Hextall: "It was bouncing on end. I wanted to shoot right away, but I knew I had time."

So does Tampa Bay _ it bought another game in this best-of-seven series, one in which the eighth-seeded Lightning is a heavy underdog to the Eastern Conference's regular-season champion Flyers.

To get it, the Lightning rallied from a 7-3 loss in Tuesday's and overcame a 1-0 deficit in Game 2. Alexander Selivanov's second-period goal tied it at 1, then the Lightning battled the injury-decimated Flyers close throughout a scoreless third period. Legion of Doom wing John LeClair was among a trio of Flyers knocked out of the game.

"I think that was the key to the hockey game," Gratton said. "When you have key players like that out, you have to take advantage of it."

The Lightning, playing without injured scoring-leader Brian Bradley, did: goalie Daren Puppa got a piece of Mikael Renberg's blast to stave off one opportunity early in the 20-minute extra session, then used his face mask to turn away a wicked power-play blast from Flyers star Eric Lindros later in the sudden-death period.

"If he doesn't make that kick save (on Renberg) and stop Lindros like that," Bellows said, "I don't get an opportunity to score."

"In overtime all you're trying to do is desperation," said Puppa, who also withstood a five-on-three Flyer power play early during the second period. "You're doing whatever you can to keep the puck out of the net. For me, it was my head."

And, for one game at least, it cost Philadelphia its head.

"It's tough to work so hard, then to lose it in overtime," Lindros said. "But this happens sometimes. We just have to regroup."

For the Lightning, it was time to enjoy its victory.

"It's a good feeling, because nobody even predicted us to be in this series," Gratton said. "Maybe we did overreact a little bit, but it was a big win for us."

Selivanov tied it with 15:58 remaining in the second period, threading the rebound of a John Cullen shot that came off the pads of Hextall between the goalie's blocker side and the goal post behind him.

It was the first goal of the series for Selivanov, who led the Lightning in goals scored with 31 during the regular season and is being counted on to continue that production in his first NHL playoff experience.

If Philadelphia came out flying in Game 2 like in did in Game 1, the Lightning would have been grounded. But, Tampa Bay captain Paul Ysebaert said beforehand, "If you can weather the storm in the first five minutes, then you're going to be able to hang in there."

The Lightning experienced some early turbulence, as the Flyers went on a power play after Gratton went to the penalty box for cross checking just 76 seconds into the game. Philadelphia converted in just 32 seconds, the beneficiary of a sudden drop by one of the Lightning. LeClair was cycling the puck down low to Lindros when Tampa Bay penalty-killer Ron Zamuner went down, in the process swatting the puck in an attempt to clear the zone.

Instead, Dale Hawerchuk stepped up from the right point and onetimed a blast high past Puppa's outstretched glove.

But unlike Tuesday night, when the Lightning gave up one goal in the first 55 seconds and two before the first period was seven minutes old, Tampa Bay did what Ysebaert said it would have to and weathered this storm.

And then, over the next period and a half, the Flyers began to fall.

Joel Otto was the first to go, followed by John Druce. Both sustained sprained knees. When Lightning defenseman Igor Ulanov lowered his body and set up Lindros for a hip check on the boards, it would not be long before the Flyers star was headed for a visit to the trainer's room himself with a bruised kneecap. He returned. LeClair, who did not, later left with a serious ankle sprain.

"There's no question we have to play more physical," Ulanov, who was a healthy scratch in Game 1, said the morning before Game 2. "That's the key for tonight."

That, some great goaltending and some timely scoring.

Just ask Bellows.

Key Stats Lightning Flyers

Goals 2 1

Shots 26 26

Penalty minutes 22 16

Power play 0-5 1-8