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Stanley Cup Notebook: Khabibulin comes through

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(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay were able to win a weak Southeast Division by a mile despite some inconsistent goaltending from down the stretch. It was that factor, plus the New York ' easy handling of the Bolts during the regular season, that led many to favor the Isles in this first- round matchup.

Well, Khabibulin used Thursday's playoff opener to put the stretch run behind him, at least for now. He finished with 30 saves and notched his first shutout since March 1, helping Tampa to a 3-0 victory.

"Nik was outstanding," coach John Tortorella said. "That's good for Nik to play a game like that and get a win. It was tremendous for him. That was one of his better games."

Khabibulin was also helped out by solid play on the part of an underrated Tampa blueline. Among the defensive contributions was 's diving stop of a shot in front of an open net in the second period. Boyle's move helped keep the score at 1-0.

The performance of the backliners and Khabibulin allowed the 's high- powered offense to get away with one, as the club's top guns, with

the exception of (two goals), were relatively held in check. The top two lines were limited to a mere nine shots, and three came from center .

"We didn't generate as much offense as we'd like, but we scored some goals when we needed to," Tortorella said. "In the playoffs, you don't overanalyze."

Also picking up the 's struggling attack was left wing , who was a healthy scratch for a good portion of the season's second half. The bruiser only had one goal in 33 games during the campaign, but put the on the board with a breakaway tally just over five minutes into the second period.

The one x-factor the had in their corner was young netminder , a kid getting his first taste of playoff action as a starter. DiPietro, who shined down the stretch run, finished with just 15 saves on the night. In fairness to him, though, two of the three goals directly came as a result of turnovers by New York's .

But there was no blame passed around afterward.

"It was a loss the team took," said head coach Steve Stirling. "Not just one mistake."

As New York goes back to the drawing board, it might also want to take a look at its power play. The Isles went 0-for-5 with the man advantage, including three blown chances in the first period. They managed only one shot during the trio of opportunities.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, would like to get its offensive attack going on all cylinders. And the scary thing is that the team scored three times when it wasn't running at full capacity.

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