By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
Published December 4, 2005
TAMPA - The Lightning looked like a marathon runner Friday night. Gasping for air, limping to the finish line, hoping like heck to hold on for the victory.
"They looked tired to me," coach John Tortorella said after the 3-2 shootout victory against the Blackhawks. "We looked brain dead. I thought we were slow with everything we did mentally and physically."
The Lightning did have an excuse.
"We have played a lot of hockey lately," center Brad Richards said.
That's why a break could not come at a better time. After playing 15 games over 30 days and not going more than two days without a game since Oct.25, the Lightning won't play again until Thursday at home against Nashville. For one of the few times since he has been coach, Tortorella is giving his team consecutive days off. The Lightning did not practice Saturday and won't practice today.
"It's good now," Richards said. "We're going to get some rest and try to get rid of the excuse of being tired. We'll see if we can get some rest and get some energy back."
Pulling out Friday's game makes the next few days a bit more relaxing.
"We know we have a lot of time off and if you lose," goalie John Grahame said, "it kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth."
SHOOTING FROM THE LIP: The Lightning avoided the sour taste because it won - sound the trumpets - another shootout.
The Lightning lost its first three shootouts, but has rallied to win two in a row. During a shootout loss earlier this season, Tortorella made a few wisecracks to his shooters.
"I know a couple of guys got upset with comments I made," Tortorella said. "I'm not going to say who it was or what I said, but they were (ticked). ... Listen, those shootout guys want to do well. If they were upset because of something I said, well, so be it.
"But, please, don't take it that they (won two shootouts) because of what I said."
Tortorella doesn't care why the Lightning won the shootouts, only that it did.
"We were 0-for-3 and now were 2-for-2," Tortorella said. "It's important. Those are big points come March and April."
NO HABBY? NO COMMENT: Tortorella wanted no part of the Nikolai Khabibulin controversy.
Khabibulin, the goalie who backstopped the Lightning's Stanley Cup, signed with the Blackhawks last summer, but agreed with Chicago coach Trent Yawney to not play against his old team in the only meeting this season. Was Tortorella surprised?
"That's not my call," he said. "I don't coach that team. I wasn't sure what was going to happen. We don't spend too much time worrying what the other team is going to do. It would be totally unfair for me to comment on that because that's their team. I get (ticked) off when other coaches try to coach our team so I'm not going to coach their team."
Speaking of the other team, Tortorella did have this comment about the Blackhawks: "That's the quickest team we've played."