Habs let one slip

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:59 PM ET


 After a Game 1 loss, the Montreal Canadiens wanted to make some adjustments.

 And they did.

 But unless they can find an adjustment that keeps Vincent Lecavalier off the scoreboard, the others won't matter.

 For the second game in succession, Lecavalier scored twice. And now, by virtual of yesterday's 3-1 victory in Tampa Bay, the Lightning lead the Eastern Conference semi-final 2-0.

 Even though the Canadiens got off to a potentially disastrous start, the game was there for the taking. They fell behind 2-0 early, but got on the board before the first period ended and dominated the second.

 Well, almost. As the second-period clock ticked down into single digits, disaster struck.

 With the sides playing four-on-four, Sheldon Souray was carrying the puck up the left side when it slid off his stick. Tampa's Cory Sarich pounced on it and immediately bounced it off the boards to Lecavalier, who was in full flight.

 Lecavalier had only goaltender Jose Theodore to beat and that's exactly what he did -- with only three seconds left in the period.

 "I thought about making a pass, but the puck was bouncing and I decided to shoot," Lecavalier said.

 But that same bad ice had a lot to do with creating the opportunity.

 "The puck was bouncing," Souray said. "I had a million things going through my mind and when that happens that's not good. I just lost the puck."

 Sarich couldn't believe his good fortune.

 "The puck just seemed to flip right off his stick," Sarich said. "I was just excited to see the puck heading the other way."

 The goal gave Lecavalier four in two games -- four more than he had in the entire first round against the New York Islanders.

 "It feels great," Lecavalier said. "I don't think it really means I'm playing better than the last series. It just means they're going in. My linemates are creating a lot of opportunities and that's the most important thing."

 The Canadiens started the game terribly, thanks to a pair of borderline penalties 51 seconds apart. Tampa Bay is tough enough to stop at full strength. With a two-man advantage, it took the Lightning exactly 10 seconds to score.

 Theodore made a spectacular save on Martin St. Louis and then stopped him again when he got his own rebound. But on yet another rebound, Lecavalier was able to jam the puck under Theodore with only 2:35 gone in the game.

 The quick Tampa start seemed to rattle the Habs, who made a series of errors. Had it not been for Theodore, they would have been blown out.

 The best of Theodore's many great saves was a miraculous toe stop on Ruslan Fedotenko in the first. A few seconds later he stopped Dmitry Afanasenkov on a clean breakaway.

 Finally, another breakdown cost the Canadiens a goal. Again, Theodore made a great save only to be beaten on the rebound, this time by Fred Modin at 8:33.

 In the Tampa Bay dressing room, all the players were singing the praises of Nikolai Khabibulin, and justifiably so.

 He was outstanding in the second period and, as St. Louis put it, "Khabi gave us a chance to hold the lead in the third and that's great. When we go into the third with a two-goal lead I like our chances."

 But in the Montreal room, there was a feeling they should have capitalized.

 "Emotions at the beginning of the game put us back a step," defencemen Craig Rivet said. "But we picked it up in the second. We couldn't find the back of the net."

 That's not a problem Lecavalier had.


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