GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning at Philadelphia Flyers.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference finals; tied 1-1.
TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EDT.
The Tampa Bay Lightning say a little adversity will be good for them. For the first time in the playoffs, they've got some.
The Lightning's character will be tested when they head to the Wachovia Center to take on the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3.
Cruising along with eight straight wins, the last of which gave the top-seeded Lightning a 1-0 lead over the Flyers, Tampa Bay's fortunes changed dramatically in Game 2 on Tuesday, as Philadelphia jumped out to a 6-0 lead and went on to a 6-2 victory.
Six Flyers scored and Marcus Ragnarsson had three assists as Philadelphia seized home-ice advantage. The Flyers are 6-0 at the Wachovia Center during these playoffs.
"The difference in the two games was that we were able to score on our odd-man rushes in Game 2 and we didn't score in Game 1," Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're playing pretty well."
The Flyers leaned heavily on their home arena in the semifinals, winning three times en route to a six-game victory over Toronto. They'll need that home advantage to be even more overwhelming against a Tampa Bay club that is 4-0 on the road in the postseason.
The Lightning, though, probably will be focused solely on erasing the memory of their first poor performance of the playoffs. The loss was only their second of this postseason, and the sloppy effort was surprising after the club had been so consistent in putting together strong games.
Following the lopsided defeat, however, the Lightning sounded like they were almost happy with the result.
"Sometimes a good spanking is good for you," coach John Tortorella said. "We won't get too low from this."
Lightning forward Martin St. Louis was thinking only about what positives Tampa Bay could draw from the loss. The Lightning outshot Philadelphia 14-10 and outscored the Flyers 2-1 in the third period, although the game was already out of reach at that point. Tampa Bay finished with 31 shots on goal to Philadelphia's 29.
"We did some good things offensively. We created more chances than in Game 1," St. Louis said. "They came out flying. They got a couple breaks and it's a different game when you have to come back."
While the Lightning appeared to be looking at the Game 2 loss as just a bad night, it's crucial for them that Nikolai Khabibulin bounces back with a strong outing. Tampa Bay's goalie came in with a 1.00 goals-against average, but came completely unraveled, getting pulled just six minutes into the second period after giving up his fourth goal on just the Flyers' 12th shot.
Philadelphia will be looking to seize control, and will probably try to get Tampa Bay back on its heels immediately in Game 3 - as well as put the pressure on Khabibulin from the moment the puck drops. The Flyers should be helped toward that end by the two-day break between Games 2 and 3, which seems likely to benefit them more than the young Lightning.
It appears the bad blood from the third period in Game 2 could carry over to Thursday. That contest deteriorated into numerous fights over the final 20 minutes, with the teams combining for 25 penalties totaling 118 minutes. Tortorella delivered a stern message to Hitchcock on Wednesday.
"Last time I looked, he's wearing a suit back there, the same type of suit I'm wearing," said Tortorella, who said Hitchcock had words with some Lightning players. "He's not in the battle. There are two quality teams here. He should shut his yap. It's not about him. It's about two quality teams.
"We understand how Philly works as far as the dialogue that goes on with all this stuff here, but when it comes to a coach to an opposing player, it's disrespectful and it's wrong. That's got to stop. Park your ego. Shove it in your pocket."
Told of Tortorella's comments, Hitchcock kept his simple.
"Tell him to mind his own business," Hitchcock said.
Game 4 is Saturday afternoon at the Wachovia Center.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Lightning - 1st seed; beat New York Islanders 4-1, quarterfinals; beat Montreal Canadiens 4-0, semifinals. Flyers - 3rd seed; beat New Jersey Devils 4-1, quarterfinals; beat Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2, semifinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - four with 5 goals; Fredrik Modin, 8 assists and 13 points; Chris Dingman, 29 PIM. Flyers - Keith Primeau, 5 goals; Alexei Zhamnov, 8 assists and 12 points; Donald Brashear, 45 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Lightning - Power play: 12.5 percent (6 for 48). Penalty killing: 86.5 percent (32 for 37). Flyers - Power play: 17.4 percent (8 for 46). Penalty killing: 88.7 percent (47 for 53).
GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Khabibulin (9-2, 4 SO, 1.34 GAA); John Grahame (0-0, 3.53). Flyers - Robert Esche (9-4, 1, 2.10); Sean Burke (0-0, 1.50).