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Thunder and Lightning too much for Flyers

PHILADELPHIA -- On Wednesday, Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella got into a war of words with his Flyers counterpart, Ken Hitchcock, who he felt was inappropriately yapping at the Lightning players in the waning moments of Game 2 Sunday. The prevailing wisdom was that Tortorella, no shrinking violet, was attempting to steer the attention away from his club's poor performance.Whatever Tortorella's motivation, the Lightning rebounded from their earlier disappointment and earned a 4-1 victory in Game 3 last night at the Wachovia Center, giving Tampa a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals. "We were watching [the footage on TV] while we were playing cards," said center Vincent Lecavalier, who scored the Lightning's critical third goal early in the third period to mute the Flyers' momentum.

"It's part of the game. I think Torts protected us by what he said, but that was over with. He said what he had to say and Mr. Hitchcock said what he had to say, and that was it."

The Lightning looked strong in the first period, jumping out to a 2-0 lead as the Flyers tried to recover from the loss of defenseman Marcus Ragnarsson to a hand injury after only three shifts.

Forward Cory Stillman potted Tampa's first goal (his second of the postseason) at 12:56. Stillman took a cross-ice pass from center Brad Richards in the neutral zone and gained the blue line on the right side. He reached the top of the right circle and sent a fluttering wrist shot at the net that eluded goalie Robert Esche over the glove.

Esche said it's one he would like to have back.

"There's no disguising it, it was just a bad goal by me," said the goalie.

"It's something I'm not happy with, but I thought I did a good job of battling back and trying to stay in it as long as I could, but when you give up a goal like that early in a hockey game, it kind of takes the wind out of everybody's sails, so that's just something I have to be focused on for the next game."

Less than three minutes later, the Lightning doubled their lead on a power-play tally by right wing Ruslan Fedotenko, who started his NHL career with the Flyers.

With defenseman Danny Markov off for holding, Fedotenko beat Esche from the left circle at 15:20.

Philadelphia attempted a comeback in the middle period with some unbelievable scoring opportunities, but if goalie Nikolai Khabibulin looked merely mortal in his previous outing, he looked positively otherworldly last night. He made 19 stops in the first 40 minutes, some from point-blank range.

Khabibulin also got plenty of help from the iron. At 11:31, right wing Branko Radivojevic had a tailor-made chance when he found himself with a rebound in the right circle, but his shot caromed off the crossbar.

A couple of minutes later, with the Flyers pressuring in the Tampa Bay zone, right wing Tony Amonte took a backhand pass from captain Keith Primeau and fired from the slot, but his bid hit the left post.

With defenseman Pavel Kubina off for his third penalty of the contest, the Flyers kept the pressure on, but the best chance -- a shot by Amonte -- deflected off Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle and never made it through to Khabibulin.

The Flyers got back into the game on Primeau's goal in the first minute of the third. Primeau, who had an outstanding game and was a physical presence all night, pulled Philly within one just 36 seconds in with a tough-angle shot from deep in the right circle that squeaked through Khabibulin.

But the Lightning stole the momentum back, regaining their two-goal lead at 1:19. Right wing Martin St. Louis saw Lecavalier streaking up ice and threaded a perfect lead pass, giving Lecavalier a breakaway. He beat Esche with a forehand into the top right corner. It was the sixth postseason tally for Lecavalier in 12 games.

"After they got that goal, to score that third goal was huge for us," said Lecavalier. "It was a great play by Marty."

Tampa Bay scored its fourth goal on a highlight-film strike.

Boyle started the play after intercepting a clear by Flyers defenseman Kim Johnsson. St. Louis took Boyle's pass and immediately dished it to left wing Andre Roy, who is known more for his fists than his finesse. Roy gave it right back and St. Louis found Richards in the slot, and he beat Esche at 8:20.

Game 4 is here tomorrow afternoon and unlike his tart words of a day earlier, Tortorella had praise for both sides.

"We have two quality teams here," said Tortorella. "They're trying to get to another spot, both teams, and the road isn't big enough for both."

in today's globe
Bruins playoff recap
Bruins vs. Canadiens
Habs win series, 4-3
 Game 1: B's 3, Habs 0 | Gallery
 Game 2: B's 2, Habs 1 | Gallery
 Game 3: Habs 3, B's 2 | Gallery
 Game 4: B's 4, Habs 3 | Gallery
 Game 5: Habs 5, B's 1 | Gallery
 Game 6: Habs 5, B's 2 | Gallery
 Game 7: Habs 2, B's 0 | Gallery

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