STARS 2, LIGHTNING 1: Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Modano score 33 seconds apart early in the third for Dallas.
By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 9, 2002
TAMPA -- For two periods, there was virtually no difference between Tampa Bay and Dallas. Then, in two blinks of an eye, two Stars lived up to their star power.
Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Modano scored 33 seconds apart during the first minute of the third period for a 2-1 victory over the Lightning before an announced 12,874 Tuesday at the Ice Palace.
"We outchanced them 17-9," Lightning coach John Tortorella said of the quality scoring chances. "The difference in the game is Dallas' two big players score the goals. We don't.
"Look at the names, Modano and Nieuwendyk."
Tampa Bay has lost 10 of 11 to the Stars franchise, including six in a row at home. It fell to 1-3 in 2002 and is 7-46-3-2 during January in four-plus seasons since 1998.
The Lightning lost its fourth consecutive home game and sixth of its past seven overall.
During the skid, which includes consecutive 2-0 losses at Minnesota and Chicago last week, Tampa Bay's most talented scorers have been shut out. Vinny Lecavalier, no goals in eight games. Brad Richards, one goal in 11 games. Fredrik Modin, no goals in six games.
"We can't continue to be so fine," Tortorella said.
"There's such a fine line. We're trying to be so perfect because we're not getting goals from our big players. That's the difference."
For many weeks, Tortorella has pleaded with his big guns to do what Modano and Nieuwendyk did Tuesday -- score at critical times. After two scoreless periods, the Stars' dynamic duo took control.
Nieuwendyk scored his 16th of the season 21 seconds into the third, charging to the net and flipping a rebound past Nikolai Khabibulin.
Soon after, Modano did his own dirty work, digging along the boards to control the puck in the Lightning zone.
Martin Rucinsky passed it back to Modano, who was drifting toward the middle. He sent a one-timer past Khabibulin for his 20th of the season.
And Modano had the flu.
"(Tuesday) morning, I felt like I was dying," said Modano, who took five shots in 21:26 of ice time. "But I slept all day and began feeling better.
"I was not at 100 percent, so it was nice to come away with a hard-fought win."
Dallas backup goaltender Marty Turco, who is emerging to challenge veteran Ed Belfour for the No.1 job, made 34 saves to win his seventh consecutive start.
Dallas' 33-second surge spoiled the Lightning's effort.
For the second straight game, Tampa Bay applied pressure on offense by shooting the puck and charging the net. But the strategy that produced three goals at Phoenix did not work against Turco.
Turco showed the Lightning how opponents must feel facing Khabibulin night after night: frustrated.
He set the tone during the first 90 seconds, sliding across the crease to block Vinny Prospal's one-timer from point-blank range. Early in the second, he denied an open Lecavalier from close range, dropping to his knees and using his body to block a wrist shot.
The Lightning outshot its opponent for just the 10th time this season, 35-28, but barely avoided its third shutout in four games.
After pulling Khabibulin for an extra skater, Dave Andreychuk deflected Martin St. Louis' shot with 47 seconds left.
The Lightning, 8-14 in one-goal games, is tired of hard-fought losses, St. Louis said. "Just two bad shifts," he said. "We played hard. We played with patience. But we're at a point where it's not good enough anymore to play well and not get the result."