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Lightning close, but loses to Senators

SENATORS 4, LIGHTNING 2: Ottawa continues to dominate Tampa Bay with its sixth straight win.

By TOM JONES
Published November 4, 2005


OTTAWA - Maybe it's true. Maybe the Senators simply have the Lightning's number.

No matter how well the Lightning plays, it's not quite good enough. No matter how many saves its goalie makes, he doesn't make enough. No matter how much it deserves to win, the Lightning always seems to look up at the scoreboard at the end of the night and find the Senators' number is higher than its own.

It happened again Thursday. The Lightning's three-game road trip through Canada started in disappointing but not unexpected fashion with a 4-2 loss to the Senators in front 18,604 at the Corel Centre.

The Lightning fought back from a 2-0 deficit to tie it early in the third period, but watched (again) as the Senators found another way to knock off Tampa Bay.

But instead of blaming his team, Lightning coach John Tortorella called out his goalie for the first time this season. Not only did Tortorella pin the bulk of Thursday's loss on goalie John Grahame, but Tuesday's 6-4 loss to Atlanta, too.

Grahame, who gave up two so-so goals in the third period Tuesday, made 27 saves Thursday, some spectacular. But it wasn't the ones he stopped. It was the ones he allowed.

"I thought our team played well right on through," Tortorella said. "But that's two third periods where I think we needed some saves. Johnny made some great saves during the game, but we needed him in the third period, too."

Wade Redden broke a 2-2 tie at 6:32 of the third by scoring from the blue line. Then came the back-breaker two minutes later. Trying to clear the puck out of his zone, Grahame passed it directly to Ottawa's Mike Fisher, who skated in and easily beat Grahame. "That can't happen against a team like this," Tortorella said. "Not in the third period."

Grahame took the blame.

"To give up a goal like that - a (messed)-up play on my part, that just took the life out of our team," Grahame said. "When I'm making plays like that, it's not going to help. ... It's 100 percent my fault and I have to live with it."

The Lightning now has to live with another loss to the Senators (10-2-0), who have established themselves as the team to beat in the East. And the Lightning can't beat them.

The Lightning has won only two of the past 17 meetings and has lost six in a row, including a 4-1 thumping at home Oct. 21.

"The last game in Tampa wasn't good and this was a step in the right direction on the road," Lightning center Brad Richards said. "But we've got to find a way. And we didn't do that. ... We worked for the most part, but we're still not playing the way we can consistently throughout games."

For much of Thursday's game, the Lightning did play well, perhaps even the best it has all season. It outplayed the Sens early despite falling behind 2-0 on goals by Martin Havlat in the first and Daniel Alfredsson early in the second.

The Lightning fought back on quick power plays. Richards scored six seconds into a second-period power play and Vinny Lecavalier scored nine seconds into an early third-period power play to tie it.

But, almost as if on cue, the Senators found a way to win even though the Lightning (7-5-2) seems on the verge of finding its form despite losing consecutive games in regulation for the first time.

"When you lose, it doesn't feel good," Richards said. "I don't know how much you're coming (on) when you lose two in a row. It doesn't matter who you are playing. We're a good enough team that we can win anywhere. We had a 2-2 tie in the third and didn't get it done. It doesn't feel like we're coming."

Especially against Ottawa.