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Mistakes are mounting

SENATORS 5, LIGHTNING 2: Three Ottawa goals in the second period put it out of reach.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published January 7, 2004

photo
[AP photo]
The Senators' Daniel Alfredsson smashes the Lightning's Ruslan Fedotenko into the boards in the second period.

OTTAWA - Frustration is building in the Lightning locker room.

You could see it on Martin St. Louis' stern face after Tuesday night's 5-2 loss to the Senators at the Corel Centre when he said, "I wish we had a little more desperation in our play."

You could hear it in Brad Lukowich's voice when he said of Tampa Bay's intensity, "It was there at times, but it can't just be there at times. It has to be there every shift."

Because it wasn't. Because of defensive mistakes and a goaltending miscue. And because a usually stout penalty kill, which had allowed six goals on the road all season, gave up three, the Lightning failed to gain on the idle Thrashers and remained four points back in the Southeast.

Tampa Bay also failed to capitalize on Saturday's victory over the Flyers, fell to 5-13-4 in its past 22 games and lost the 12th of its past 13 games in Ottawa.

St. Louis said the team's inconsistencies are angering the players. "We finally put a good game together and had a good result," St. Louis said, "and we can't do it again. If you want to make the playoffs you have to put a winning streak together. Right now we have to treat every game like there's no tomorrow. We have to play like it's the playoffs every night."

Ottawa left no doubt it is the NHL's hottest team.

Second-period goals by Marian Hossa, Jason Spezza and Todd White broke a tie at 1 and paced its fifth consecutive victory and an 8-0-2 unbeaten streak, one off the team record.

The Senators also got three goals, including Daniel Alfredsson's in the first period, that either started or ended with shots from the point, where Tampa Bay's players and coach agreed they did not apply enough pressure.

St. Louis scored his 12th goal in the first period to cap one of the season's prettiest plays, and defenseman Nolan Pratt broke a 63-game drought with a second-period goal that made the score 3-2.

But White's tip-in re-established Ottawa's two-goal lead with 2:35 remaining. Goalie Martin Prusek, who got the start after Patrick Lalime had back spasms in warmups, made 27 saves.

"I felt there were a lot of positives," Lukowich said. "But when you play versus a team that feeds off mistakes, you have to stay out of those."

Lukowich and defensive partner Dan Boyle made mistakes when White got between them in front of the net, from where he tipped in Zdeno Chara's point shot.

Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made one when he gave up a huge rebound on Chris Phillips' soft shot from the point that Hossa scooped up and put in the net.

And left wing Cory Stillman and Pratt made mistakes when they let Spezza go free on the right wing in the defensive zone and gave him a clear path to Khabibulin, who was beaten high as Ottawa took a 3-1 lead on the power play at 7:44.

Still, after Pratt's goal, his first since Feb. 8, 2003, Boyle said the Lightning was feeling pretty good.

"We fought back, and I thought we were playing pretty well," he said.

But then came White's goal.

"That one," Boyle said. "That was the nail on the head."

"I thought for parts of the game we forechecked very well," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "But we just couldn't maintain it. But they scored a couple of goals from the point. We just weren't able to crawl back completely, and they kept on answering."

Tampa Bay answered with St. Louis' first-period goal. That ended a terrific play in which St. Louis passed from the left wing to the slot to Fedotenko, who swung the puck to Vinny Lecavalier to the left of the net.

Lecavalier fed St. Louis, who tied it at 1 and has three goals and four assists in his past six games.

"Who cares," St. Louis said. "We lost."

[Last modified January 7, 2004, 01:33:45]

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