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Lightning lets it slip by

MAPLE LEAFS 3, LIGHTNING 2 (OT): Toronto ties it in the third and scores at 3:49 of overtime to beat Tampa Bay for the eighth straight time.

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 7, 2003

TAMPA -- Every point is important, and in this case, relative.

Two days after foundering in losing by four goals at home against Southeast Division-leading Washington, the Lightning surrendered a third-period score and another in overtime to lose 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday.

The Lightning has lost eight in a row to the Leafs and blew a third-period lead against them for the third straight time. But the sheer spectacle of the loss to the Capitals and the fact that Tampa Bay recouped a point in its attempt to stay in the playoff hunt was enough to placate coach John Tortorella and most of the players.

"That other point didn't mean much to us," wing Dave Andreychuk said. "We battled hard and we would have liked to have had it, but you need to get points against good teams. We'll scratch and claw and move on."

The Lightning's 22-20-7-5 record is good for 56 points, and with Boston beating Montreal and the New York Islanders idle, the seventh playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"I thought we improved immensely from the Washington game," Tortorella said. "We're looking to find points. I don't (care) what Toronto gets for points."

It got two to remain fifth in the East when Nik Antropov crashed in after a Bryan McCabe shot and flicked in the winner at 3:49 of overtime. Antropov's 14th of the season gave the Leafs their fourth win against the Lightning this season, all by a goal, and two in overtime. Toronto is 27-8-1-1 against the Lightning and 16-2 in Tampa.

Defenseman Dan Boyle seemed to feel more like the 50 percent of the announced crowd of 16,204 that was pulling for the Lightning in its attempt to make the playoffs for the second time in club history and the first since 1995-96.

"We can't give teams like that the extra point," he said. "It's pretty frustrating to have it in the third and lose it like that.

"I really don't think we can be satisfied with one. We're not where we need to be. We can't be satisfied with one point, because in the end I don't think it's going to be enough."

Andreychuk, on a night that began with a ceremony to honor his 600th career goal and 250th on the power play, gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal at 3:21 of the second period.

Brad Richards, who extended his points streak against Toronto to 13 in the past 12 games, fired a slap shot from the point that Andreychuk tipped past Trevor Kidd.

But Kidd, in his first action since Jan. 18, was solid with 34 saves and held the Lightning in check during a third period in which it outshot Toronto 16-3.

Toronto tied the score at 3:53 of the third when Nikolai Khabibulin attempted to bat the puck away and it bounced off Jonas Hoglund and flopped to Mikael Renberg near the crease. Renberg buried the shot for his 12th goal.

"We seemed to panic a little bit on defense," Boyle said. "We have to be smarter than that, not take chances, especially in the third like that. You can't have three guys in front of the net and let them get whacks like that."

Khabibulin, who has not won since Jan. 7, made 21 saves with his toughest tests coming early, when the the Maple Leafs swept into the Lightning end with impunity and created three dangerous short-handed chances.

Toronto didn't look nearly as fluid offensively on its first power play, but took a 1-0 lead seconds after it expired at 11:23 of the first when Hoglund sneaked in behind Cory Sarich and scored on a rebound.

Tampa Bay tied it at 18:59 of the second when Richards made a pass across the crease to Ruslan Fedotenko, who scored his 13th.

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