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Lapse leaves little to analyze for Habby

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO and BRANT JAMES
Published December 5, 2003

TAMPA - Nikolai Khabibulin did not have much to say about the goal he allowed with 1:17 remaining Tuesday that gave the Canadiens a 3-2 victory.

"Not much to think about," said the Lightning goalie who did not speak to reporters after the game. "I should have stopped it. What else is there?"

Khabibulin played a pretty good game otherwise and made 22 saves. But with Tampa Bay stuck in an oppressive scoring slump and with its winless streak at six (0-4-2) after Thursday's loss, every slip-up is scrutinized and magnified.

Especially considering Tampa Bay tied the score with 3:50 left on Vinny Lecavalier's goal.

Montreal's Jan Bulis scored the winner on a soft backhander from under the faceoff circle to Khabibulin's left. The shot hit the goalie's leg pad, his stick and trickled over the goal line.

"It hit the pad about right here," Khabibulin said. "It went under the blocker, I think.

"That's the way things have been going lately a little bit for us," goaltenders coach Jeff Reese said. "At the beginning of the year we were getting the bounces. It was just an unfortunate thing. Nik is going to make mistakes just like everybody else, and that's what it was.

"He's been terrific for us. He'll come back strong."

Asked if he would do anything differently on the play, Khabibulin said probably not.

Asked if he did not expect Bulis to shoot from that angle, he said, "I didn't expect it to go through. It's the one thing I didn't expect. Unfortunately, it did."

BAD CALL?: Defenseman Dan Boyle, whose high-sticking penalty for a hit on Bulis contributed to Montreal's winning power-play goal, was upset about the call and madder after Bulis admitted faking the severity of the hit.

"I knew I hadn't done enough to get a penalty, especially with three minutes to go," Boyle said. "That's just a horrible call."

Boyle said he had a difficult time sleeping after the game.

"It was just a horrible feeling in the penalty box when the other team scored," he said.

FIRST TIME: When Andre Roy sat out against Ottawa, it was the first game the Lightning was down a player because of injury. Tampa Bay was the last NHL team to lose a player that way.

TIED UP: The Lightning was assessed a game misconduct for an improperly tied-down jersey when left wing Chris Dingman's jersey came off during a second-period tussle with Chris Neil. Defenseman Jassen Cullimore incurred the same penalty in a 2-2 tie against St. Louis on Nov.28, but the league rescinded it. On Thursday, Dingman's jersey strap appeared to come loose because his shorts ripped.

Coach John Tortorella called it a case of "over-officiating" and "void of common sense."

"Is Chris Dingman going to start a game not tied down, playing his game and trying to be physical the way we expect him to play?" Tortorella asked. "I don't think it affects the outcome, but it affects how we run our bench, and it's very frustrating."

NICE POINT: Shane Willis earned his first point since April9, 2002, when he assisted Dave Andreychuk's power-play goal in the first period.

[Last modified December 5, 2003, 01:34:13]

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