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Lightning's Grahame does not worry about one bad game.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published February 22, 2004

WASHINGTON - The way Lightning goaltender John Grahame sees it, his shaky performance during Friday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Sabres is forgotten.

It should be the same, he said, for Nikolai Khabibulin's criticized effort in Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Blues.

"I don't think goaltending is a concern on our team," Grahame said Saturday.

As for coach John Tortorella's mini-rant after the Buffalo game in which he called Tampa Bay's goaltending of late "unacceptable," Grahame retorted, "He might have been thinking that (Friday) night. ... One bad game doesn't make or break you or whatever. I think it's silly. From my point of view, that's how I have to look at it. Everyone has a bad game once in a while. To push the panic button I think is ridiculous."

Tortorella is a bit concerned, and he's got some numbers to back him up.

Since Jan. 3, when the Lightning began its 16-3-1-4 streak, Khabibulin is 6-5-1 with an .868 save percentage. Grahame is 10-2-0 with a .912 save percentage but was not sharp in his past two outings.

And a case can be made that Tampa Bay hasn't had an outstanding game in net since Khabibulin's 2-1 victory over the Flyers on Feb. 2.

The team was off Saturday, and Khabibulin could not be reached for comment. But Grahame said, "To stick up for myself, I think I probably had two bad games in 25 (this season). It seems like everyone is starting to push the panic button for one or two bad games.

"Habby said he didn't think he played his best, and I don't think I played my best. But, you know, two games out of 25 for myself, it's an absolute joke to be pushing the panic button. That's the way I have to look at it. I can't get upset with every little thing that happens or I would be retired. I can't sit and worry about stupid little things like that. I just look at how I've played and what I'm capable of doing and get back on track."

Grahame, 28, has had an outstanding season. The Denver native is 15-7-1 with a shutout, a .917 save percentage and a 1.86 goals-against average that, entering Saturday, was third in the league.

Still, coach John Tortorella knows Tampa Bay's average 3.8 goals during its past 24 games likely will not last, especially in the tight-checking playoffs.

"You can't score three or four goals every night in this league to win," Tortorella said Friday. "You can't have that type of situation."

So, surprise, he wants to keep his goaltenders focused.

"You can't hold onto it," Grahame said of a bad game. "You play everything the same. You work the same. You do everything the same. For one game, to let something like that creep in to, say, my confidence or whatever, I won't let it happen. I know what I can do. I know what I'm capable of. That's how I look at it."

[Last modified February 22, 2004, 01:45:26]

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