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Charity goes on in draw

LIGHTNING 4, PANTHERS 4: Another third-period lead is lost. Another point is given away.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003


SUNRISE -- About 6 inches, maybe even a little less.

Had Dave Andreychuk's bouncing, syrupy-slow shot at the empty net with about 25 seconds left against the Panthers been to the right just that much, the Lightning wins Saturday.

Instead, the puck clipped the outside of the post. And from the you-could-see it-coming department, Jay Bouwmeester's power-play goal with 11.8 seconds left gave the Panthers a 4-4 tie and capped yet another third-period Tampa Bay collapse.

It was the second time in as many games the Lightning let a third-period lead slip away. But this was much worse than Thursday's overtime loss, in which Toronto overcame a one-goal deficit.

Thanks to three goals in 2:33 of the second period, Tampa Bay led 4-1. It led by two at the start of the third and 4-3 with 8:14 left after Olli Jokinen's second goal and 28th of the season.

"This one especially hurts," Andreychuk said. "But it's a point on the road. We should have had two. Hopefully, we keep learning what we have to do to hold a lead in the third period."

Center Brad Richards wasn't as charitable.

"It's awful," he said. "I don't know what to say. We stood back on our heels, didn't forecheck. It was a matter of time."

The Lightning, with 57 points, moved to within five of the first-place Capitals in the Southeast. But it fell to the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, behind the Islanders, who also have 57 points but three more victories.

The tie snapped Tampa Bay's four-game win streak against the Panthers and five-game win streak in Sunrise.

It also rendered almost irrelevant a few nice moments.

Andreychuk, Richards and rookie center Alexander Svitov scored in the second period. Richards' goal chased Robert Luongo, who allowed three goals on 11 shots. Svitov, who also had an assist for his first multipoint game, scored on the first shot on Jani Hurme at 9:15 for a three-goal bulge.

Andreychuk's goal was his 15th of the season and 608th overall, tying him with former Lightning Dino Ciccarelli for 12th all-time. Nolan Pratt's first-period goal was his first for the Lightning and first in 99 games dating to March 2001, when he played for the Avalanche.

So what happened?

Tenuous goaltending by Nikolai Khabibulin, who is winless in eight starts (0-6-2) and has one victory in 12, and some defensive lapses, including leaving Bouwmeester alone in the slot and Jokinen alone in front of the net.

"If you're not going to work hard on the puck every minute of a game at this time of the year, you're not going to get anything accomplished," coach John Tortorella said. "If we don't understand that, it's going to fall apart. It starts with your big players from your goaltender right on up."

Khabibulin didn't stop Jokinen's shot from in close that cut the deficit to one. But it was Fredrik Modin who left Jokinen alone when he thought the puck was going to be cleared. Instead, it hit his skate and deflected to Jokinen.

Viktor Kozlov scored Florida's second goal after it appeared Vinny Lecavalier turned the puck over at the Lightning blue line. But Lecavalier said Kozlov made a "great play" by pushing on Lecavalier's hands with his stick, forcing him to miss the puck.

The tying goal came with Florida on a power play after a hooking call on the Lightning's Tim Taylor with 48 seconds left. The center said he was simply battling for the puck and would make the same play again.

Still, Tampa Bay, which faced a six-on-four with Hurme pulled, could not kill off the penalty. Nor could it convert in overtime despite a power play and six shots on goal.

"We were fortunate to battle back and get a point," Panthers coach Mike Keenan said.

They were fortunate the goal was not about 6 inches wider.


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