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Lightning laments lost opportunities

LIGHTNING 1, SABRES 1: Kevin Hodson stops 22 shots while teammates miss on scoring chances.

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 28, 2002


LIGHTNING 1, SABRES 1: Kevin Hodson stops 22 shots while teammates miss on scoring chances.

BUFFALO -- Lightning backup goaltender Kevin Hodson was out of the NHL for the past two years and had not started in a month. A shutout would have been a lot to ask.

But not for Hodson.

Playing for his job every time he hits the ice, Hodson performed admirably during a 1-1 tie Wednesday at Buffalo before an announced 11,420 at HSBC Arena. Yet even as he accepted congratulations from teammates in the locker room, Hodson lamented the shot that got past.

"It was my fault," he said.

Hodson made 22 saves, many of them tough during the third period and overtime, to preserve the tie. But Vaclav Varada's wrist shot from a sharp angle trickled under Hodson's glove arm with 1:52 left in the second period.

"I feel good about the game, but I'm a little upset about the goal I let in," Hodson said. "I think it was a weak goal. That has to be stopped. The team played well enough to get two points."

The Lightning snapped a six-game losing streak at Buffalo dating to 1999 and, by earning one point for the tie, held onto first place in the Southeast. Tampa Bay tied it on a goal by Fredrik Modin, marking the eighth point it has earned when trailing after two periods and the 10th time it has rallied to earn points this season.

The Lightning improved to 5-4-3 on the road but would have preferred to beat the slumping Sabres, who have just one victory in their past 15 games and had lost eight of nine.

But no one blamed Hodson.

Rather, the Lightning pointed to missed scoring chances during the first two periods, the 0-for-7 power play and ineffective forecheck. The Lightning outshot Buffalo 24-23 but did not get a shot on goal during overtime. "Overall, we have to be happy to get a point but not thrilled," coach John Tortorella said. "We expect more right now. No disrespect to Buffalo, but we're looking to grab points. We find one here, and I still don't think we played a complete game. We had some opportunities to score goals early but didn't finish."

Tampa Bay's best scoring chance during the first two periods came midway through the second, when Dave Andreychuk poke-checked the puck away from a Sabres defender in front of goalie Martin Biron. Vinny Lecavalier picked up the loose puck for a one-on-one chance but failed to lift his forehand shot off the ice. "We should have scored more goals," Lecavalier said. "We had the opportunities to score, but we didn't capitalize on them."

Modin, who missed the past four games because of back spasms, tied it 4:37 into the third on a wrist shot from the slot. Assists went to Martin St. Louis, who fed a centering pass to Modin, and Dan Boyle.

After spending the past two seasons as a minor-league assistant coach, the 30-year-old Hodson is trying to make a comeback as all-star workhorse Nikolai Khabibulin's backup.

Hodson's only previous start this season was a 5-1 loss at New Jersey Oct.26, the second of back-to-back games. The Lightning did not play well in front of Hodson.

Still not certain of Hodson's future with the team, Tortorella gave him the nod Wednesday because the situation seemed right: a road game against a struggling opponent with the Lightning coming off a three-day break. Though he faced only four shots during the first period and let in the soft goal in the second, Hodson responded in the third. He denied the Sabres a short-handed goal midway through the period by getting just enough of his left pad on Curtis Brown's breakaway slap shot. Hodson also made several close-range stops.

"Every time he plays. he's fighting for his job," Tortorella said. "There's pressure on him, but it's a different kind of pressure because we're still evaluating him. I thought he played a very good third period, so that's good news. But I'm sure he'd like to have that one shot back."

Yes, he would.

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