Simon says Game 7

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:59 PM ET


 The Philadelphia Flyers never make life easy for themselves. But they continue to have a life.

 The Flyers had to overcome a demoralizing early goal by the Tampa Bay Lightning last night at the Wachovia Center and a one-goal deficit with less than two minutes to play.

 But they did both, defeating the Lightning 5-4 in overtime and forcing a seventh game in the Eastern Conference final.

 As usual, they were led by Keith Primeau. He scored a pair of goals, but this time had some help from linemate Simon Gagne who also had a pair.

 It was Primeau who got the one that sent the game into overtime with only 1:49 remaining and it was Gagne who scored the winner.

 In that third period, the Flyers were all over the Lightning, which made the mistake of trying to nurse a lead and was outshot 17-5.

 "They basically sat back for 20 minutes and we were really jumping, getting to all the loose pucks," Flyers' Mark Recchi said. "They did the same thing in Game 5, but (goaltender Nikolai) Khabibulin kept them in it. It didn't work out for them that way tonight."

 It was on one of those surges, most of which were led by Primeau, that the tying goal came about.

 "The puck came out of the corner and I think someone had my stick," he said. "I kind of directed it with my skate and I thought: 'Oh, don't go in.' I wanted it to go in but I didn't want it to go in because I was thinking: 'They are going to review it and it's going to be disallowed.'

 "All of a sudden, it kept coming across the crease and I was coming out the other side and I got an easy whack at it."

 In the overtime, the Flyers pulled out all the stops. It was a risky ploy. They're the older team and there are no television timeouts in overtime. Coach Ken Hitchcock had shortened the bench and, if the Lightning had had time to regroup between periods, the result might have been different.

 "We were gambling," Flyers forward Jeremy Roenick said. "It was a good thing we got it early. A couple of us were starting to wear down."

 At 18:18, Gagne ended it, whipping a rebound behind Khabibulin.

 "I think Khabibulin was looking a little bit more for J.R. to shoot," Gagne said. "The puck came right on my stick. I just shot as hard as I could and the puck went between his legs."

 After starting the play, Primeau got a good view of it.

 "I was just watching the back of the net, waiting to see a black thing in there," he said. "And all of a sudden, I saw it cross the line. I knew it was Simon on the far side. He's the guy you want over there because he's going to put it in every time."

 Vincent Lecavalier scored only 88 seconds into the game. But Gagne got that one back after Primeau (who else?) made the play. He lobbed the puck to Gagne who somehow picked it out of the air and put a backhander past Khabibulin.

 Primeau put the Flyers in front 2-1 before the period ended, but in the second, both goalies looked shaky and the Lightning opened a 4-3 lead.

 Lecavalier brought Tampa Bay even 2-2 on a shot that Robert Esche juggled but couldn't handle. Then Khabibulin got into the act, allowing a weak goal from Sami Kapanen.

 But Ruslan Fedotenko scored twice and once again, the Flyers were in a hole.

 But as so often has been the case this season, they battled back and now it's a one-game showdown for a berth in the Stanley Cup final. And despite home-ice advantage, the Lightning will have its hands full.

 "We'll dig deeper than you could ever possibly imagine," Primeau said.


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