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Red Wings crack Lightning defense

By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
Published December 18, 2005

TAMPA - Lightning coach John Tortorella walked into his postgame news conference Saturday night and angrily said, "I'm happy with the way the team played. So figure it out."

You need not to have a degree in rocket science with a minor in hockey to understand what he was driving at. He pinned Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Red Wings squarely on the shoulders of goalie John Grahame.

"I thought we played very well, but do the math," Tortorella said. "Eight scoring chances, five goals."

Those were Grahame's numbers Saturday as the Lightning lost an exciting, though ultimately disappointing game for the ones not wearing Red Wings jerseys among the 21,204 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

For about 90 percent of the game, the Lightning played the type of game it wanted. It checked hard and worked hard. For long stretches, it dominated one of the best teams in hockey. Three times it took one-goal leads.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, the other 10 percent of the game was an absolute killer.

All the hustle, all the scoring chances, all the intensity was wiped out by a few lame-brain mistakes. And Grahame did little to bail his team out. Not only did he not come up with key saves at the right times, he allowed a few soft goals at the worst times.

"I thought there were a number of goals when it was tough to get the momentum back," Tortorella said.

None hurt more than a tying goal late in the second period. Jason Woolley's unscreened, untouched shot from the faceoff circle somehow eluded Grahame and zapped all the energy out of the Lightning heading to the third.

The Lightning never recovered. Detroit scored two goals in the first 2:47 of the third to break open the game and send Grahame to the bench. He finished with 19 saves on 24 shots.

"The third goal hurt us," said Grahame, who took the blame for the loss. "We had all the momentum. We were playing good. I've got to make that save."

According to Tortorella, that wasn't the only goal Grahame should have saved. The shoddy goaltending ruined an otherwise impressive night for the Lightning that was sparked by a couple of kids making their NHL debuts.

Ryan Craig and Darren Reid were called up from the Lightning's minor-league affiliate in Springfield and inserted into the lineup in place of veterans Martin Cibak and Dmitry Afanasenkov, who have three goals and four assists in a combined 54 games this season. The move paid off as Craig scored a goal and Reid drew a penalty that led to one of the Lightning's two power-play goals.

Rob DiMaio, Dave Andreychuk and Craig scored to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead midway through the second.

"I'm surprised that we came out and played so well after getting back from Anaheim (on Friday) at 5:30 in the morning and changing time zones and all," center Tim Taylor said.

Ultimately, the Lightning couldn't hold the lead despite outshooting the Red Wings 31-29. Detroit surged ahead on goals by Mikael Samuelsson, Pavel Datsyuk, who had two goals and an assist, and Brendan Shanahan in the first 9:31 of the third. Goalie Chris Osgood ran his record against the Lightning to an incredible 15-0.

"We just didn't show up in the third period, which is not acceptable for us," DiMaio said. "Everything was right. We were in a good position and then they got one, got some momentum. Then they got another and things started to unravel for us. That's definitely not our hockey team."

Actually, according to Tortorella, it was even though the Lightning took a few bad penalties and, to be fair to Grahame, fell asleep defensively on a couple of Detroit's goals.

"I thought we played terrific," Tortorella said. "Watch the game. Eight (expletive) scoring chances and five goals. And I'm happy with the team. ... You watched the game. It's frustrating."

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