Friday, April 30, 2004

Lightning finish off sweep of Canadiens

The Associated Press

MONTREAL - Brad Richards finished what Vincent Lecavalier started and the Tampa Bay Lightning swept their way to the conference finals for the first time.

Richards scored his second straight game-winning goal in the second period and the Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 Thursday. Tampa Bay handed the Canadiens their first series sweep since Buffalo did it in the second round in 1998.

The Lightning had never advanced past the second round in their first 11 seasons but now have time off before facing either Toronto or Philadelphia with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals on the line.

Fredrik Modin scored into an empty net with 55.3 seconds remaining for the Lightning, who have won seven straight playoff games.

Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 27 shots, allowing only Niklas Sundstrom's goal 5:46 in. Khabibulin, who has allowed nine goals in nine games, leads goalies with four shutouts and a 0.99 goals-against-average in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay021-3

Shots on goal-Tampa Bay 8-11-5-24. Montreal 11-8-9-28.

Power-play opportunities-Tampa Bay 1 of 5; Montreal 0 of 3.

Goalies-Tampa Bay, Khabibulin 8-1 (28 shots-27 saves). Montreal, Theodore 4-7 (23-21).

LABOR TALK: Failing to break major ground on the issue of salaries in their first formal labor talks since October, the NHL and the players' union scheduled more negotiations late next month.

"I don't think anybody came into this thinking we were going to get a deal done today, but we had good discussions," NHL Players' Association senior director Ted Saskin said Thursday.

NHL vice president Bill Daly used the word "progress" in characterizing the discussions, and referred to Thursday's talks as "a healthy dialogue."

The two sides' chief negotiators spoke to the media after a 3 1/2-hour meeting at the union's offices in Toronto. Without providing an exact date, they agreed to meet again in late May.

The discussions were an attempt to spur stalled labor talks to head off a potential lockout that could disrupt next season after the current collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15.

Any deal will hinge on whether the two sides can agree on the system in which players salaries are negotiated.

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