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In the end, it's another win

LIGHTNING 4, HURRICANES 3: Tampa Bay gives up a 3-0 advantage then gets Cory Stillman's winner.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published November 2, 2003

TAMPA - The Lightning must be living right. And considering its minirun of luck lately, maybe the players should go in on a lottery ticket.

For the second consecutive game, Tampa Bay received the gift of a fluky, long-range goal. This one beat the Hurricanes 4-3 Saturday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"You take 'em," coach John Tortorella said. "You take the two points and go."

But whereas Pavel Kubina's goal from center ice that helped Tampa Bay tie the Sharks on Thursday was clearly luck, Cory Stillman beat Carolina with a little bit of guile.

Stillman was at the Hurricanes blue line intending to dump the puck around the boards. But when he saw goalie and former Lightning Kevin Weekes anticipate the play and move outside the crease, Stillman shot on net.

And it went in as Weekes hit the ice trying to scramble back into position.

The goal with 8:09 left, Stillman's sixth and second winner, increased the Lightning's opening unbeaten streak to eight (7-0-1) and averted a letdown as Tampa Bay squandered the three-goal lead it had with two minutes left in the second.

"I saw where he was and just fired," Stillman said.

Said Weekes: "Nothing happened. I anticipated he was going to dump it. My toe picked and the rest is pretty much history."

Vinny Lecavalier had two goals, and Fredrik Modin, freshly moved to Lecavalier's line, assisted on both. Martin St. Louis scored. All the goals were even strength (production that way had been sporadic) and Nikolai Khabibulin made 33 saves for his sixth victory.

"There were a lot of good things," Tortorella said.

But plenty of bad ones began piling up after Lecavalier scored his second goal, his fifth of the season, with 4:22 left in the second to give the Lightning a 3-0 lead.

Tampa Bay apparently figured the game was over. The Hurricanes thought it was time to get in gear.

Josef Vasicek made the score 3-1 with his fifth goal in three games with 1:35 left. Erik Cole made it 3-2 47 seconds into the third, and Radim Vrbata tied it at 9:37.

"Give Carolina credit," Tortorella said. "Once it started snowballing, they're a good team and have been playing very well."

The Lightning made it easier.

"The most important part of the game was with about three minutes left, and we talked about it on the bench, was getting through that period up 3-0," Tortorella said. "We cheated. We missed assignments, stopped battling hard enough. They score one. It gives them life and then it snowballed from there. I hope we learned a lesson."

The Lightning helped by taking bad penalties such as Martin Cibak's roughing call, Stillman's four-minute high stick, Andre Roy's charge and Kubina's cross check. But the penalty kill, which has taken care of 27 of its past 29 chances, bailed it out.

Tampa Bay also got lucky when Rod Brind'Amour's shot hit the crossbar with 5:07 left as Khabibulin played without his stick.

So what's wrong with a little luck?

"It was kind of lucky but it's still a good play," Lecavalier said of Stillman's goal. "It might work one out of 20 times but it gave us a lead."

"We end up winning on a goal like that," Tortorella said. "Who's to figure?"

When is the next lottery drawing?

[Last modified November 2, 2003, 07:26:04]

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