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Same old situation

SENATORS 4, LIGHTNING 1: Goals drought continues for Tampa Bay, winless in six straight games.

By BRANT JAMES
Published December 5, 2003

TAMPA - The ability to compete was evident. The ability to win was again beyond reach.

The Lightning's ever-increasing goal-scoring malaise worsened Thursday as a furious start vanished with wasted opportunities in a 4-1 loss to the Senators in front of 15,221 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The Lightning (11-6-4-1) has scored just six goals in six games, going 0-4-2 with three straight losses in a span coach John Tortorella calls a "delicate time."

"This is dangerous time for the psyche of our hockey team where we need to stay together," he said.

Tampa Bay's numerous chances withered because of its inability to finish plays. Never was a finish more necessary than in the final seconds of the second period with the Lightning trailing 2-1 but on the power play.

Recent callup Shane Willis led a three-on-none flying wedge into the Senators zone, then dished the puck to Vinny Lecavalier, the team's all-time leading scorer. Instead of firing toward a gaping hole to the right of goaltender Martin Prusek, Lecavalier eschewed his second (and final) shot on goal and touch-passed back to Willis. Willis flicked the puck into Prusek's shoulder to squander one of the rarest of advantages.

"We kind of really didn't know what we were going to do on it," Willis said. "If we made a quicker decision we might have had a better play."

"It was nothing that I did," Prusek said. "I was lucky."

Momentum had enough of the Lightning thereafter.

First the Senators killed off three minutes of power play when Marian Hossa was whistled for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct late in the second. Then at 6:34 of third, Jason Spezza gathered a deflected Lightning pass at the blue line and raced in to beat goaltender John Grahame for his second goal of the game and a 3-1 lead. Antoine Vermette added an empty-netter at 19:27 as Ottawa outshot the Lightning 15-4 in the period.

"Our whole team's mindset has to change into, "I'm going to stick this in here at the end of the (second) period to make it 2-2,"' Tortorella said. "But we're still a little bit in between. I thought we were much better in the first two periods. Then we got a little bewildered."

Grahame, who entered as the NHL leader in save percentage and goals-against average, made 22 saves but fell to 3-3-1.

"You can sense the frustration," said captain Dave Andreychuk, whose goal at 13:36 of the first was his first in 15 games.

Though Tampa Bay controlled play early, Bryan Smolinski scored on a tip for a 1-0 lead at 11:38 of the first. The Lightning held an 18-5 shots advantage late in the second period and created scoring opportunities for Martin St. Louis, Andreychuk and Brad Richards, but Ottawa followed a penalty kill with Spezza's bang-in score for a 2-1 lead at 15:31. Andreychuk, back centering a line with Ruslan Fedotenko and Dmitry Afanasenkov, scored on a wraparound that trickled through Prusek's pads and perhaps showed teammates there is a way out of this rut.

"The last four games I've had unbelievable chances and that goes in," Andreychuk said. "So that kind of typifies how a slump can be broken. Hopefully we get some goals like that and get some confidence back."

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

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