tampabay.com

What will stop the champions' slide?

No day off, the Lightning meets to discuss too many penalties, ineffective power-play killing and six straight losses.

By TOM JONES
Published November 13, 2005


TAMPA - Saturday was supposed to be a day off for the Lightning. It should have been a good day to play a round of golf, or sip ice tea by the pool, or watch college football.

Some day off.

The Lightning held a 90-minute video session and meeting in hopes of finding the answers to breaking a season-high, six-game losing streak. The meeting was called by coach John Tortorella, but the players were left to themselves to watch the worst parts of the six-game train wreck.

The streak started Nov. 1 when the Lightning gave up two goals in the third period in a 6-4 loss to Atlanta. Then came a lost trip to Canada during which the Lightning was beaten by Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. Then came losses to the Rangers and Thrashers on Thursday and Friday.

Against Atlanta, the Lightning took a 2-0 lead, then gave up five unanswered goals. As soon as the Thrashers surged ahead 3-2, the Lightning's mood turned into "here we go again."

"It's human to nature to think about it that way," right wing Marty St. Louis said. "Once it starts, it just compounds itself - loss after loss after loss. We really just have to look at just winning one game. Get that first win because it can go the other way just as fast."

Getting that first one won't be easy, especially with the Flyers coming to town Monday.

"We all have got to look at ourselves and be honest with ourselves in trying to see what we all, as individuals, can do," St. Louis said. "We all have to do more."

There is one thing the Lightning needs less: penalties. After being one of the league's least-penalized teams in the first dozen games, the Lightning (7-9-2) has fallen into a pattern of taking bad penalties at the wrong times. Making matters worse, the penalty-killing, ranked No. 1 in the league for the first dozen games, has disappeared.

During the six-game losing streak, the Lightning has been short-handed 36 times, most for unnecessary or undiscipline penalties. And here is how many power-play goals the Lightning has allowed during the losing streak: 4-0-2-2-1-3.

"We're just shooting ourselves in the foot," left wing Fredrik Modin said. "The thing is we're all trying so hard. You want to get that puck. You want to create a scoring chance. And you end up using your stick on a guy to get that puck. They're penalties. They can't happen. But I understand them, too."

Everyone, however, agrees they must stop.

"Sometimes less is more," St. Louis said. "You have to be conscious of what they're looking for. You have to reprogram your mind not to use your stick as much. We're 18 games into the season, we should know by now."

The Lightning does has good news. Goalie Sean Burke, out since Oct. 29 with a groin strain, is much improved. He could be available Monday if he has a good day of practice today.

Oh, yeah, practice today. There was a rumor that today was going to be an off day, too. But that was before a six-game losing streak came to town.