Shocking development

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:39 PM ET

 For years, they were known as the Frightning.

 Now, they're known as the Eastern Conference champions.

  And Stanley Cup finalists.

 The Tampa Bay Lightning ground out a seventh-game 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers last night, and now they're going to battle the Calgary Flames for the right to hoist hockey's ultimate trophy.

 In the end, it was a victory of offence over defence. The goaltending was solid on both sides. There was plenty of effort. The teams were well coached and produced sound, effective hockey.

 But the Tampa Bay power play was remarkable, finishing the series with a stretch of six goals in eight attempts.

 Again last night, the margin was one goal -- both on the scoreboard and in the power play success column.

 Even so, it all came down to one game -- a Game 7 for the right to go to the final.

 And the Lightning, who had frittered away an opportunity to earn that right on Thursday, made no mistake this time.

 "We had the right mindset (last night)," said former Maple Leaf Fredrik Modin, who scored the winning goal when the puck took an odd bounce off the boards and ended up in the crease where he pounced on it.

 "I think we put everything behind us and we concentrated on putting everything into this game. We got off to a good start and they scored a goal in the second but we didn't let that get to us.

 "We concentrated on doing the right thing, just trying to play smart and I think that was the biggest difference."

 Like so many of the Tampa players, forward Martin St. Louis was determined not to repeat the tactical error of Game 6.

 "I truly think things happen for a reason," he said. "Losing that Game 6, I think that was destiny. We needed to play Game 7 to learn what we're made of. We went at it. We didn't just sit back."

 Captain Dave Andreychuk also spoke of a change of tactics.

 "I know in Philadelphia, I clockwatched a little bit as the game wound down," he said. "I did not clockwatch (last night) until there were about three minutes left in the period. I just felt, 'Now is our time. They're not going to be able to come back on us this time.' "

 And they didn't.

 The Flyers, who never did get as much traffic in front of the net as they would have liked, finally set up camp there and when Kim Johnsson fired a shot from the point, it got through the traffic and beat the screened Nikolai Khabibulin.

 There were almost exactly 30 minutes left in regulation time.

 Would the inexperienced Lightning be able to hang on or would the pressure get to them as it did in Game 6?

 This time, they kept on playing their game. There were some anxious moments, as there always are, but Tampa was equal to the task.

 "It was definitely a lot better than Game 6," said forward Brad Richards, who took the shot that Ruslan Fedotenko deflected to open the scoring. "It went right to the last minute and that's the way it should be.

 "We wanted to cherish the moment and not leave anything out there. Don't do anything you'll regret when it's over."

 That the Frightning are now respectable is a surprise to most hockey people. And even coach John Tortorella would not have predicted his team's emergence so quickly.

 "I'm not going to lie to you," he said. "There was not a chance, we thought, that this would be happening so quickly. We are fortunate.

 "I'm happy for the guys. I'm happy for the way they did it. There was no going in the back door. They knocked down the front door and just charged."

 And when they got there, a spot in the Stanley Cup final was awaiting them.


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