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May 19, 2004 - Can Primeau keep the Flyers in the air ?

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Can Primeau keep the Flyers in the air ?
Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Facing elimination for the first time in the playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers are turning to -- who else -- Keith Primeau.

"You ride the horse that got you here," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said Wednesday. "Primeau has been a great player. How many are going to come on board with Keith? That's the challenge. We need more than just Keith Primeau if we are going to extend the series. That's the important thing is to get more people following his lead, get closer to his lead, and join him."

Captain Primeau and the rest of the Flyers are trying to prevent the Tampa Bay Lightning from reaching the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in franchise history. The Lightning can advance with a victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Tampa Bay took control of the series with a 4-2 win Tuesday night. The Lightning are 2-0 in close-out games this spring, but they have alternated wins and losses against the Flyers.

"We want to try to finish it, but I think some other people over there in Philly have some other ideas about it," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "Hopefully we're going to break the trend and win two in a row. It will be two teams in a great building, great situation and looking forward to it."

The injury-depleted Flyers have responded well in adverse situations throughout the regular season and playoffs. They won Game 4 of their first-round series in New Jersey to take a 3-1 lead, then knocked the defending Stanley Cup champions out in five games. After losing two games in Toronto to even their second-round series, the Flyers came back with a lopsided victory in Game 5 and advanced with an overtime victory in Game 6.

"We all understand where we're at and the circumstances we're under," said Primeau, who has had an outstanding postseason. "We have to prepare for Game 6 as if it's the last thing we're going to do."

The Flyers are 7-1 at home in the playoffs, losing Game 3 to Tampa Bay. The Lightning are 5-1 on the road, losing Game 4 to Philadelphia.

"We've played well on the road. I don't think that's a big concern of ours because we are in Philly," said Lightning forward Brad Richards, who scored two goals in Game 5. "I think the big concern is coming out and matching their intensity and desperation, because, you know it's going to be high when their back faces the wall like that."

The Flyers haven't had much success in must-win games at home, getting eliminated in front of their fans five of the last six seasons. They've only come back once to win a best-of-seven series in which they trailed 3-2.

"We have to be more desperate than we've been," Flyers forward Mark Recchi said. "We know what's at stake. We want to keep playing.

The key to the series has been special teams. Tampa Bay had three power-play goals in Game 5, while the Flyers have been miserable with the man advantage. Philadelphia is 1-for-23 with an extra man against the Lightning, and 1-for-36 going back to Game 4 against Toronto.

"I don't think it's tactics, it's more execution," Hitchcock said. "Our problem in this series is that we've not moved well with the puck, and we have to change that. The power play becomes a focal point usually when the penalty killing isn't doing the job. That's kind of where we're at right now. I think we have not done a good enough job killing penalties, so it's put pressure in other areas to score goals."