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May 20, 2004 - Gagne keeps Flyers season alive

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Gagne keeps Flyers season alive

PHILADELPHIA (CP-AP) - Keith Primeau saved the Philadelphia Flyers' season. Simon Gagne gave them at least one more game.

Gagne scored his second goal with 18:18 into overtime, leading the Philadelphia Flyers to a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final.

The winner of Saturday's deciding game will play the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup final, beginning Tuesday.

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``I need everybody around me to help. I got that tonight,'' said Primeau, who scored twice, including the tying goal with 1:49 left in regulation.

Philadelphia outshot Tampa Bay 17-5 in the third period and 10-5 in the extra session.

``We threw everything we had at them in the third period and the overtime,'' Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. ``We weren't going to be denied tonight.''

The Flyers are seeking their eighth trip to the Cup final, and first since getting swept by Detroit in 1997. The Lightning, in the playoffs for just the third time in the franchise's 12 seasons, have never reached the Cup finals.

After Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin made several outstanding saves in the extra period, the Primeau-Gagne-Jeremy Roenick line struck again in their first game together.

Primeau took a shot that hit Lightning defenceman Pavel Kubina and went to Roenick, whose passed it out to Gagne at the other side of the net. Gagne snapped a shot that hit Khabibulin and squeaked in.

``The puck went right to my stick and I shot it as hard as I could,'' Gagne said. ``I was excited when I saw that line on the board this morning.''

Sami Kapanen also had a goal for Philadelphia, which won its second overtime game of the playoffs.

Ruslan Fedotenko and Vincent Lecavalier each scored twice for the Lightning.

``If we win Game 7, this game has no bearing,'' Lightning centre Tim Taylor said. ``We can't get on the plane and mope around.''

Said Lightning coach John Tortorella: ``You don't get a chance to play many Game 7s. That's the way you have to look at it.

``We missed an opportunity tonight but we still have a wonderful chance. (Game 7) is a great opportunity for our club and we're looking forward to it.''

Fedotenko's first goal against his former teammates tied it 3-3 in the second period. He scored on a power play from almost the same spot on a near-identical pass from Dave Andreychuk - a 22-year veteran hoping to appear in his first Stanley Cup - to give the Lightning a 4-3 lead with 2:27 left in the second.

But Tampa Bay seemed content to sit on the lead in the third period, and Primeau finally made them pay for it. From the left side of the net, Primeau kicked the puck through Khabibulin's pads, came around the other side and jammed it in to send the game to overtime.

``The whole line was unbelievable,'' Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said of Primeau's line. ``Keith led the charge, but he had a right wing and a left wing that were right there with him.''

Primeau, the Flyers' captain, has been dominant in the post-season, scoring nine goals in 16 games after getting nine goals in 110 playoff games coming into the year.

Now, the injury-depleted Flyers, playing without defencemen Eric Desjardins and Marcus Ragnarsson and forward Radovan Somik, are one victory away from playing for the Cup.

``We're not sitting back,'' Hitchcock said. ``When it's on the line, we're not going to sit and hope.

``This team has a special quality. It won't quit.''

Lecavalier silenced a wild, orange-clad Philly crowd early. Lightning forward Martin St. Louis forced a turnover in the neutral zone and fed Lecavalier, who skated into the Flyers zone and beat Robert Esche with a hard wrist shot at 1:28.

Philadelphia evened the score at 7:23 after big Primeau worked the puck in front to Gagne, who cut across the crease and roofed a backhander over Khabibulin.

Primeau made it 2-1 and sent the fans back into a frenzy when he one-timed a perfect cross-ice pass from Vladimir Malakhov at 17:01.

Tampa Bay looked confused and disorganized in directing just six first-period shots at Esche. But Tortorella must have delivered a stirring speech during the intermission as his players came out gunning in the second.

Lecavalier tied it 2-2 just 45 seconds into the period when he beat Esche from the top of the circle with a harmless shot. Tampa built a 7-0 shots advantage in the second.

``It's disappointing, especially when you are that close,'' Lecavalier said. ``Maybe we should have pushed a little more in the third period.''

However, the Flyers went ahead 3-2 when Kapanen's weak, bad-angle shot - just Philadelphia's third of the period - beat Khabibulin through the legs at 12:42.

Less than three minutes later, Fedotenko tied it 3-3 with a slapshot from the slot. He had one goal, which came with the Flyers, in 22 playoff games, before scoring eight this post-season.

``If this thing was easy, then we'd all have rings and we'd all have championships,'' Primeau said. ``But it's not.''

Notes: Esche was named to Team USA for this summer's World Cup earlier in the day. ... The Flyers are 2-0 in overtimes during the playoffs. ... Primeau surpassed his total of seven goals in 54 regular-season games. ... Flyers D Joni Pitkanen returned after sitting out Game 5 with an ``upper-body'' injury. Somik sat out with a hand injury. ... Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. was among the sellout crowd of 19,910 at the Wachovia Center. ... The Flyers are 1-for-37 on the power play, dating to Game 4 of their second-round series against Toronto. They are 1-for-24 against the Lightning. ... Tampa Bay has scored on six of its last 12 opportunities with the man-advantage.