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Lightning falls right into a trap

Calgary clogged the neutral zone once it scored.

TOM JONES
Published May 26, 2004

TAMPA - To make an analogy, the Lightning, this postseason, has stood in the batter's box and smashed one fastball after another into the seats, almost as if it knew what pitch was coming.

In Tuesday's 4-1 Game 1 loss to the Flames, the Lightning got a changeup.

And whiffed.

The Flames caught the Lightning off-balance by grabbing a lead and then doing something few expected them to do. The team that rarely uses the dreaded neutral-zone trap, well ...

"I'm not a coach, but that was pretty close to being a trap," Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk said.

Andreychuk was kidding. It wasn't close to being the trap. It was the trap. The Flames took a lead, then sat back, clogging up the neutral zone and forcing the Lightning, which must have felt like it was skating through a maze with no openings, turned the puck over time after time.

Yes, the Flames broke out the trap even though the players denied using it. However, it should be pointed out the Flames saying that weren't hooked up to a lie detector test at the time.

"I don't know if they say they don't," Andreychuk said, "but they did (Tuesday)."

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

"They got a lead, why wouldn't you?" Andreychuk said.

"If we had the lead," Lightning center Brad Richards said, "we would have been doing the same thing."

The Flames were the team that had the lead and had no reason to make excuses or apologies for doing what it took to win a game, especially a Stanley Cup final game.

At this time of the season, when you are four victories from the big trophy, victories are calculated by quantity, not quality.

"Look at us in a couple games (in this postseason)," Lightning defenseman Cory Sarich said. "You get up a couple of goals, everyone gets maybe a little tight so you play a little bit more of a defensive style of hockey.

"Preserving the lead is what they were doing."

That meant dumping the puck in the Lightning zone, chipping the puck out of their own zone, making the smart pass that prevented giving up a chance as opposed to making the risky pass to create one.

"They made the safe plays," Sarich said. "We saw a little bit of the trap from them. They did what they had to do."

Now, what does the Lightning have to do if the Flames, normally the hare, decide to be the tortoise?

"I don't think we were a simple enough hockey team," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We need to be more simple."

That means doing a little more grinding and being a little less fancy. It means dumping the puck in the Flames zone instead of crossing the line with pretty passes. It means using more elbow grease and less icing.

"When we did that (Tuesday)," forward Martin St. Louis said, "we were effective."

But not enough. The Lightning was fooled by the changeup, duped by the double-cross and whatever other analogy you want to use.

"You can make as many analogies and excuses that you want, we just flat-out didn't play our best," Sarich said. "That can't happen again. It's such a short series. We're going to have to pick up our play the next game."

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