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Late flurry fails to net second point

LIGHTNING 2, PREDATORS 2: Tampa Bay settles for a tie after owning the game late.

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 22, 2002

TAMPA -- So many thoughts went through Brad Richards' mind as he streaked toward the goal with one minute left in overtime.

The game was on his stick.

The puck was less cooperative.

Symbolic of the unlucky bounces Tampa Bay has gotten the past two games, the puck refused to settle on Richards' stick as he charged unimpeded toward Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun. The best he could do was flip a backhand in Vokoun's direction from the side of the net.

No goal. No glory.

No victory.

Despite staging a furious attack in the third period and overtime, the Lightning settled for a 2-2 tie against the Predators -- the last-place team in the West -- before an announced 15,248 Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Vinny Lecavalier had a goal and an assist, Dan Boyle scored and Vinny Prospal had two assists as Tampa Bay increased its Southeast Division lead to two points over idle Carolina. But players could not help feeling dejected after having a plethora of scoring chances the past two games but only a tie to show.

"It's definitely discouraging with all the chances we had," said Richards, who had the only goal in Thursday's 2-1 loss to Toronto and extending his point-scoring to 10. "It's more than discouraging. But we have to hold our heads high and keep going."

The Lightning outshot the Predators 16-2 in the third, 4-3 in overtime. With 40 shots total, Tampa Bay had 24 prime scoring opportunities.

Vokoun was spectacular. In one sequence with six minutes left in regulation, he made four dazzling stops as Ruslan Fedotenko, Lecavalier and Stan Neckar peppered him with close-range shots. When the exchange ended with the puck under Vokoun's pads, Lightning skaters were dumbfounded.

"We had four or five shots, good shots, and it ended up he got the puck under his chin or something like that," Lecavalier said. "Obviously, we came out to win this game. We'll take the point. We're not happy with it, but we'll take it."

Playing its third game in four days, Tampa Bay was energized, feisty and physical. But Nashville, which entered with a league-low 63 goals, capitalized on its few opportunities.

Vladimir Orszagh threaded a pass through the skates and sticks of Lightning defenders Nolan Pratt and Cory Sarich, and Denis Arkhipov beat Nikolai Khabibulin for his second goal of the season and a 1-0 lead 5 minutes, 59 seconds into the first period.

Lecavalier scored his 15th of the season on a power play, lifting a breakaway backhand over Vokoun's glove to tie it at 6:37. Lecavalier hustled during a delayed penalty to set up Boyle's seventh of the season for a 2-1 lead at 16:53 in the first.

"I was a little bit mad because their second goal scored was a play where their guy mis-shot the puck," Vokoun said. "It was going wide, but went off a defenseman's skate and into the net. But I felt really good right from the start."

Nashville's Denis Pederson tied it with a slap shot from just inside the blue line at 4:52 in the second.

From midway through the second to the final horn, Tampa Bay controlled play, sending numerous odd-man rushes at Vokoun, only to be denied. Richards and Martin St. Louis came close to converting a short-handed chance in the final minute of regulation, but Vokoun gloved Richards' shot.

"Games like this, you always want two points," Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina said. "Nashville has been struggling lately, but their goalie was unbelievable. We had 40 shots and couldn't get a game winner."

Lightning coach John Tortorella, already thinking of ways to prepare his team for Monday's difficult road game against hot division opponent Washington, understood his team's frustration, stayed focused on the big picture.

Every point counts.

"You can't look at this as being a bad result," he said. "You get a point, and that's all we're trying to do here is fight, claw and grab at points when we can get them."

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