'Bulin Wall vows he'll stand tall

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:09 PM ET


 TAMPA -- Nobody can hang Game 1 around the neck of Nikolai Khabibulin.

 The Tampa Bay Lightning goalie's 15-save performance in a 4-1 loss to the Flames was less than spectacular and he occasionally fought the puck. But the netminder never saw Calgary's first goal and the second was scored on Jarome Iginla's wild, short-handed breakaway.

 "There's no time right now to lose your confidence," shrugged the eight-year veteran prior to yesterday's skate at the team's Tampa practice facility.

 "I'm going to go out and do the best I can (in Game 2). I still feel confident.

 "Hopefully, we'll have a better game and I'll have a better game, too."

 Khabibulin actually turned aside Iginla's initial shot on the breakaway but allowed the Flames winger to slip the rebound past him.

 "I made the save but lost the puck," noted the 31-year-old Russian tabbed 'Habby.' "I didn't know where it was. I fell back, which is not a good thing to do but what can you do now?

 "I'll play better next game."

 Much has been made this spring of Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff's uncanny ability to recover in spectacular fashion after allowing four or more goals.

 Fortifying the Lightning's confidence in their 'keeper is his comeback performances in a post-season in which the team hasn't lost consecutive games.

 "The last time I saw Nikolai Khabibulin in these playoffs maybe fight it a bit, I liked his response," suggested Lightning head coach John Tortorella.

 "That was in the Philly series there (after allowing five goals in Game 6).

 "I think he's a man who's gone through some scrutiny, has gone through some situations where he has to answer and I think he's been terrific. So I don't even worry about that. I think he will be there. He will be our best player and he will lead us in, I guess, our response in Game 2."

 Khabibulin posted a 1.65 GAA and an impressive .939 save percentage while also collecting four shutouts through 16 playoffs contest prior to Game 1.

 Lightning centre Brad Richards was also quick to point out his club's penchant for recovering from a loss, although it was the first time these playoffs the team has fallen in the opener.

 "We haven't lost two in a row in the playoffs and it seems when we have lost, like on Long Island, he came back and got a shutout," said Richards, referring to his netminder's goose-eggs in Games 3 and 4 of the first round after losing 3-0 in Game 2.

 "We went into Philly and won Game 3 and Game 5. He's played well, he's going to be there, we know that. That's not really our concern. Our concern is how the players in front of him are going to play. Obviously, when you only get one goal for him, you're asking a lot from him."


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