- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2003

It figured that the puck would come to Martin St. Louis in prime scoring territory in triple overtime with the series riding on every shot. And it figured that St. Louis would bury the chance to give the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 series-winning victory over the Washington Capitals in Game6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last night at MCI Center.
"Right now that seems to be the way it's going," Lightning coach John Tortorella said of the 5-foot-9, 181-pound dynamo who had five goals and four assists in the final five games of the series. "Marty wants the puck. He wants to be the guy."
St. Louis could have been the guy with 2:12 left in the first overtime, but he fired wide from the slot with Caps goalie Olie Kolzig down and the top half of the net enticingly empty. But 4:03 into the third extra session and with Washington shorthanded because of a penalty for too many men, St. Louis cemented his place in Caps playoff infamy.
"You always wonder if you're going to have another chance and if you do, you have to capitalize because you know they're going to get theirs," St. Louis said. "I kind of made a bad pass to Vinny [Lecavalier behind the net] and he made a great play by just holding onto it. He saw me coming pretty fast and laid it there for me. A big goalie is going to go down so I just tried to go upstairs. That was the play to make. You just hope it goes in."
St. Louis, who wasn't drafted, was let go by Calgary in 2000 after scoring just four goals in 69 games. He scored 34 goals in 131 games for Tampa Bay the past two years despite missing 26 games with a broken leg. But the 27-year-old came into his own this season, scoring 26 goals in the first 52 games and playing in the All-Star Game en route to career highs of 33 goals, 37 assists and 70 points. That just set the stage for this series.
"We all jumped on Marty's back and he carried us," Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle said.
While St. Louis was the hero of the series, he had to share honors last night with Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who made a team-record and career-high 60 saves, and 39-year-old captain Dave Andreychuk, who ended Kolzig's shutout and forced overtime with a bang-bang goal with just 4:06 left in regulation and Game7 imminent.
"You just felt that nothing was going to get by [Khabibulin]," Boyle said.
Peter Bondra scored 44 seconds into a Caps power play late in the second period, but otherwise the 30-year-old Russian was impregnable. After allowing 11 goals on 71 shots in the first three games, Khabibulin returned to the "Bulin Wall" form that won Tampa Bay its first division title, stopping 104 of 107 shots. Khabibulin, who won his first series in five tries, said he didn't change anything after Game 3 other than trying to relax.
"Nik got a couple of wins and you could see him slowly come back," Tortorella said. "Tonight … you could see how confident he was. We felt he hadn't played his best game and that was good news going into Game6 with us up 3-2. He certainly came up big tonight."
So did Andreychuk. Boyle said the Lightning looked "down and out" before his goal.
"[It was] kind of a fluky goal," Tortorella said. "I'm not sure where it caromed off of [Caps defenseman Ken Klee's skate] but Dave buries it. I was concerned about him in the second and third overtime [because of Andreychuks age], but he wanted to play. He's our leader, our kids feed off of him."
And the Lightning also fed off their feisty coach, who refused to get down after his team with eight playoff neophytes lost the first two games of the series 3-0 and 6-3 at home. On the eve of Game3, Tortorella tried to inspire his team and get inside the heads of the Caps by noting Washington's frequent habit of blowing series leads.
"Anything a coach can try to do to get pressure off your team, you're going to have to do," Tortorella said. "We needed to try to change our mindset. I meant no disrespect."
Now after becoming just the 15th team to lose the first two games at home and rally to win a best-of-7 series, Tortorella and his team have earned plenty of respect.

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