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Shutout leaves players gloomy

Everyone is disappointed with the 3-0 loss in the team's first playoff game in seven years.

By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 11, 2003


TAMPA -- Seven years. That's how long the Lightning waited to get back here, the NHL's promised land otherwise known as the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Fewer than three hours. That's how long it took for this season of excitement to turn into a series of uncertainty.

It's just one game of a long best-of-seven series that likely holds more twists and turns than a bowl of spaghetti. But the Lightning left that one game to a cascade of boos and on the losing end of a 3-0 score against the Capitals.

After seven years, according to the Lightning's fairy tale script, Game 1 was supposed to end with cheers, not jeers.

"Obviously, you don't like to get booed at home," Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. "It happens. I understand that. Everybody was geared up for this. (The fans) were. We were."

Maybe everyone was a little too high, which explains the loud thud when the Lightning crashed on the scoreboard. Lightning coach John Tortorella pointed out that a few of his players seemed a "little tight."

The fans, juiced at the start, meanwhile, became more and more anxious as the Caps slowly pulled away: 1-0, 2-0, 3-0. As the final minute ticked off the scoreboard, those who remained didn't hide their disappointment.

"The fans are allowed to be disappointed," St. Louis said. "I mean, 3-0, that's not the way you want to start the playoffs, to leave that taste, a bitter taste, in the fans' mouths."

While starved fans left the St. Pete Times Forum muttering, the scene inside the Lightning locker room didn't exactly resemble a fraternity party.

No smiles lit up the Lightning locker room late Thursday night. No music bounced off the walls. No high-fives or pats on the back were exchanged.

Instead, the Lightning players looked more like teenagers explaining that dent in the passenger door to Dad. You know: eyes down, voices lowered, shoulders shrugged.

"You don't want to put yourself down, but everybody is disappointed," Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina said. "There were 20,000 (people) in the building, and we lose the game, get shut out. Everybody is disappointed."

The full effect might not even have sunk in immediately for a team chock full of youth and close to empty in playoff experience.

"When they go to bed, they'll realize we're down 1-0," Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk said. "That's when it sinks in."

Pulling out one of hockey's most familiar refrains, the Lightning talked about a playoff series being a marathon, not a sprint. It's just one game, they said. Lots of hockey to be played. Tomorrow is another day.

The Lightning's optimism about Game 2, though, couldn't mask their disappointment about Game 1.

"It's not what we wanted," Lightning forward Ben Clymer said. "But the thing now is we can't stop believing in ourselves.

"We're going to play better. We just have to keep believing going into Game 2."

The Lightning will as soon as it starts to forget Game 1.

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