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NO SIR! // Flyers pull no punches

Two broken noses, one pulverized pinkie, a hyperextended elbow, a leading scorer's bum knee, one defenseman's bad cold, a goalie with a really bad back and an entire community won over later, the Lightning's first Stanley Cup playoff run is done.

Tampa Bay did not get nearly as beat up Saturday night in Game 6 as it did in a fight-fest two nights earlier at Philadelphia, but the Flyers hardly let the Lightning off easy as their first-round NHL post-season series came to a close.

The Eastern Conference's top-seeded Flyers did most of their damage in this one on the scoreboard, beating the Lightning 6-1 and winning the best-of-seven series four games to two.

"I'm very proud of these guys," Lightning coach Terry Crisp said. "We told them _ they did everything we asked of them this year kept answering the bell, answering the bell."

"You've got to take the positives out of this," said Daren Puppa, the goalie with a bad back. "We're not going to be labeled an expansion team anymore. We can go out from now on with the confidence that we can play with the big boys any night."

A crowd of 27,189 representing a Lightning-crazed Tampa Bay public was on hand at the ThunderDome, watching the last hockey game played there before the Lightning moves across the bay to the smaller downtown-Tampa Ice Palace and baseball's Tampa Bay Devil Rays take up residence in the enormous Dome.

Most remained at the end, there to say goodbye for now to the Lightning with a standing ovation that lasted for the game's final minute and extended throughout hockey's traditional post-series handshake.

"The fans were great," said Puppa, who departed to a standing ovation of his own. "I think they caught Lightning fever."

"That was a neat climax," Crisp said, "to leaving the Dome and going to our new building. We're just sorry we couldn't give our fans another round of playoffs."

Philadelphia saw to that, spoiling the bon voyage party by getting the best of Puppa. He started Saturday but did not finish, pulled with seven minutes and one second remaining in the second period after giving up the fifth Flyers goal to Philadelphia superstar Eric Lindros.

Before it was done, Lindros finished a serieslong feud by bloodying the face of Lightning defenseman Igor Ulanov. Both were booted with just more than two minutes left, as were Philadelphia's Kjell Samuelsson, Tampa Bay center Chris Gratton and Tampa Bay wing Jason Wiemer.

You of course remember Lindros, who finished the series with three goals and six points, as the goliath who broke the nose of Lightning defenseman Michel Petit in a corner-board collision in Game 5.

Saturday night's bad bust went to Shawn Burr, whose nose was broken courtesy of a Shjon Podein high stick with the Flyers leading 3-1 early in the middle period.

When referee Bill McCreary failed to make a call on Lindros on Thursday, that game deteriorated into an ugly display of hockey goonery and the Flyers went on to win 4-1. This time, veteran referee Andy Van Hellemond immediately sentenced Podein to a five-minute major and accompanying game misconduct.

That not only established that this game would be kept under control, but also allowed the Lightning five minutes with a five-on-four man advantage.

But its power play has struggled all post-season, and Saturday was no different. The Lightning had the NHL's fourth-best power play with a 20.6 percent conversion rate in the regular season, but struggled at 9.7 percent entering Game 6.

In Game 5, the Lightning squandered what could have been nine consecutive minutes on the power play. In 6, it did no better with the five minutes resulting from Podein's indiscretion.

The power play has been in disarray due to a variety of absences, including games missed by point-man Roman Hamrlik, who missed Game 5 with the flu; regular-season scoring leader Brian Bradley, who sat one game with a swollen knee and left Saturday's early for the same reason; and wing Petr Klima, who broke his pinkie Thursday.

After killing the Podein penalty, the Flyers piled it on with goals by Bob Corkum, who beat Puppa with a wrist shot, and Lindros, who onetimed a pass from Karl Dykhuis. Puppa then was relieved by Jeff Reese, who gave up a goal to Samuelsson in the third period.

Puppa played only one complete game in the series, Tampa Bay's 2-1 overtime victory in Game 2, and Reese was in net for the Lightning's other win, a 5-4 overtime affair in Game 3.

Puppa was pulled from three of four starts, including a blowout 7-3 loss in Game 1, and failed to make two, in 3 and 4, because an already bad back was aggravated during a Game 2 collision with Philadelphia's John LeClair.

But Crisp used him and several others who were not completely healthy Saturday: "We went with a bunch of guys that wouldn't take the jersey off."

The Flyers controlled the first period in this series, and Saturday night was no different. In Games 1-5, Philadelphia outscored Tampa Bay 9-1.

In the first 20 minutes of Game 6, it was 3-1 _ with all three Philadelphia goals contributed by Flyers hardly known for burning up the nets. The Flyers got their first two within 55 seconds of each other, the first from Dykhuis and the second from Shawn Antoski, and another from Trent Klatt after the Lightning's John Cullen cut the lead to 2-1. Combined, those three had 13 goals in the regular season.

"The only way you get experience is getting in the playoffs," Cullen said. "The guys who hadn't been know now what it's like, and that will help us next year."

"We gave everything we've got," Bradley said. "We came up short; it's discouraging, but we have to be happy with what we've learned."


1. With the Flyers' lead cut to 2-1 on John Cullen's goal, Bob Corkum (22) picks up a loose puck along the right sideboard and quickly dumps it across the crease to an open Trent Klatt (20).

2. Klatt hesitates momentarily to settle the puck, then easily dumps it between Daren Puppa's pads for the insurmountable 3-1 lead in the opening period.

Lightning stats

Wins vs. losses 2 wins 4 losses

Goals scored 7 (3.5) 6 (1.5)

Goals allowed 5 (2.5) 21 (5.3)

Shots 58 (29) 91 (20.3)

Shots allowed 70 (35) 117 (29.3)

Penalty minutes 32 (16) 163 (40.8)

Power play goals 1-10 2-23

PP goals allowed 2-13 8-30

Note: per-game averages in parenthesis