TAMPA, Fla. -- The Philadelphia Flyers concede one thing after losing the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"It's pretty early for a must win. But like I said before, we have to win road games, and you don't want to get late in the series and have to win a road game," coach Ken Hitchcock said.
"You want to try to win them as early as you can," he added. "If we can win Game 2, then we can come back in our building in a pretty good frame of mind."
The Flyers are 6-0 at home, but just 2-4 on the road during these playoffs.
The Lightning have beaten Philadelphia five straight this season, including Saturday's 3-1 victory in the opener of the best-of-seven matchup that resumes Monday night. The Flyers have been outscored 14-4 in three games played in Tampa, and 21-9 overall.
"It's a big game for both teams - 1-1 or 2-0 is a big difference, " Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis said. "We know we have to play better because they're going to play better."
Hitchcock saw enough positives in Game 1 to feel good about the prospect of the Flyers evening the series. He thought his team dictated the way the Lightning had to play with a strong first period.
"Compared to where we were with this team in February, it's like night and day," Hitchcock said. "And if we can continue to improve on some of the things we did ... there's some really good stuff out there."
The Flyers were encouraged by their ability to limit scoring opportunities for Tampa Bay's most potent offensive threats, as well as the various chances they created for themselves by dominating most of the first two periods.
What was equally discouraging, though, was being unable to capitalize on Lightning mistakes and take an early lead on goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who continued his superb play.
"They have a goalie with a save percentage almost .970. You have to deal with that. It's not going to change," Hitchcock said. "You're not all of a sudden going to get four, five, six goals on this team. You're going to have to deal with it, and you're still going to have to find ways to win. That's our job."
Khabibulin is 9-1 with four shutouts in the playoffs. He's allowed just 10 goals this postseason and was helped again Saturday by teammates clogging the middle of the ice and blocking shots.
"They don't allow too many shots inside ... and then when you go get it up top, they have five guys playing net as well as Khabibulin. You have to try to find a way to get around them," Flyers forward Mark Recchi said.
None of Philadelphia's big scorers is as frustrated as John LeClair, who has yet to score a goal in these playoffs - recording only one assist.
"There's no secret it's frustrating, but it's about how we're playing the next game and winning the next game and moving on in a series," LeClair said. "It's not about individuals getting goals. It's about us winning a game."
The list of postseason heroes for Tampa Bay continued to grow in Game 1.
In addition to getting the game-winning goal from Brad Richards, who's scored four times in the last three games, the Lightning got goals from Dave Andreychuk and Chris Dingman - neither of whom had one in the first two rounds.
"If you want to succeed in the playoffs, you need contributions from people in areas that they usually aren't contributing," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "You need your offensive people contributing defensively. You need your defensive people, your grinders, your fourth-line people, contributing offensively."
A scorer for his entire 22-year career, the 40-year-old Andreychuk now finds himself being asked to fill a role as a third-line checker on a team that has St. Louis, this year's league scoring champion, as well as Richards, Vincent Lecavalier and Fredrik Modin.
He's embraced the job.
"I do what I have to do to help this team win," said Andreychuk, who has 634 goals in 1,597 regular season games. "It's kind of a new challenge."
© 2017. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us