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Lightning knock down Canadiens

Lecavalier leads Game 1 blowout

Vincent Lecavalier insisted his playoff scoring slump was no big deal.

Two goals and an assist in Tampa Bay's 4-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens last night in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series didn't change the young star's perspective.

"It feels good, especially to get the first win. But it's one game. There's still three left," Lecavalier said. `I'm happy tonight. The puck went in, but we've got to keep on going."

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is tomorrow.

"You've got to give credit where credit is due," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "They played a great game. As bad as we played, and as well as they did, you have to respect that."

Lecavalier, a native of Montreal who grew up idolizing the Canadiens, didn't have a goal in 12 playoff games, dating to Game 4 of Tampa Bay's first-round victory over Washington last year. He hadn't had an assist in seven games, but fended off questions about the drought by saying he was happy as long as the Lightning were winning.

Truth is, with goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin on top of his game, top-seeded Tampa Bay hasn't missed Lecavalier's offense. Khabibulin looked unbeatable again last night, stopping 21 shots to post his fourth shutout of the playoffs.The seventh-seeded Canadiens entered the series coming off an emotional Game 7 road victory over the second-seeded Bruins, completing the first comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the team's storied history. But with a week off after eliminating the Islanders from the first round in five games, Tampa Bay was the fresher team -- and Khabibulin was much sharper than Montreal's Jose Theodore.

Theodore gave up Tampa Bay's first goal to Ruslan Fedotenko when he was caught out of position after bending down to pick up his stick early in the second period. Lecavalier scored on a deflection late in the period, then made it 3-0 when he sent a shot through Theodore's pads early in the third.

Dimitry Afanasenkov scored to make it 4-0 and Julien yanked Theodore less than a minute later, allowing backup Mathieu Garon to finish.

The Canadiens likened the game to a 3-0 loss to Boston in the opener of their first-round series.

"The first game in Boston, we just didn't show up," Saku Koivu said, "and we didn't show up tonight." . . .
In a late game Thursday in San Jose, Patrick Marleau had his second three-goal game of the playoffs and sixth of the postseason, leading the Sharks to a 5-2 victory over the Avalanche in the opener of their second-round playoff series.

Marleau (a playoff-high six goals) led San Jose's relentless offense for nearly two periods against Colorado. He scored the opening goal and added two more in 94 seconds midway through the second, chasing shaky Colorado goalie David Aebischer.

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