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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Lightning flushes Florida fiasco
Points are pivotal in tonight's Eastern Conference matchup against red-hot Montreal Canadiens.
By TOM JONES
Published March 4, 2006
TAMPA - These games happen. They happen to every team. It happened to the Lightning on Tuesday.
The Lightning got hammered. Eight-two.
A bad bounce here, poor coverage there, a penalty, no big saves, another penalty, another breakdown. Pretty soon it's 4-0. Then 5-0. Then 6-0.
A tiny snowflake turns into a snowball. The snowball starts rolling. Soon it's an avalanche. It happens.
But why does it happen? And how does a team recover from it?
That was the challenge for the Lightning on Friday. It spent the day putting Tuesday night's blowout against Florida to rest and getting ready for tonight's game against a hot Montreal team that has crept to within four points of the Lightning in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
First, Tuesday was dissected. And the answer to why such a game happens? No one has the slightest clue.
"It's like a shop of horrors, one thing happens after another and all of a sudden the game is out of reach," veteran Rob DiMaio said. "Our mind just wasn't there. I don't know why. It was a game to forget."
Every player asked about Tuesday's game used one word: embarrassment.
"I was embarrassed," said goalie Sean Burke, who played the second half of the game and surrendered four goals. "You don't want to be standing out there on the ice as a player knowing that fans are just totally disgusted and you're not even giving them their money's worth. I think we're embarrassed for ourselves, but we were embarrassed for them, too, to have to sit there and watch it."
The Lightning had plenty of excuses if they wanted them. Nearly half the team spent the past two weeks in Italy for the Olympics. None of the Olympians was truly rested. The others were stale from essentially sitting around for two weeks. Then again, every other team, including the Panthers, was practically in the same boat.
"I don't have an explanation or excuse for it," defenseman Cory Sarich said. "They played better than we did and we weren't very good. That makes it 8-2."
"Our minds weren't in it," Burke said. "When that happens, I don't care who you are playing, you're going to get smoked."
Normally, Lightning coach John Tortorella reviews videotape of the game several times, breaks down the key moments and then shows those moments to the players. This time, he did not even bother.
"Get away from it," Tortorella said, "but also never forget how embarrassing it was. That can help you get prepared for the next game. You don't break it down. You hope it's a wake-up call."
The Lightning truly did not prepare for Tuesday's game. Some players were still working their way back over the weekend from the Olympics. Brad Richards, Vinny Prospal and Pavel Kubina did not practice until Monday. Marty St. Louis didn't skate until Tuesdaymorning. Fredrik Modin's equipment didn't get back until late Tuesday afternoon.
After Tuesday's loss, Tortorella gave the team Wednesday off and allowed the Olympians to skip practice Thursday. On Friday, the team practiced together for the first time since Feb. 10.
"I considered (Friday) to be our first day back as a team," Tortorella said. "And I thought they practiced well. They went hard."
They also put away the memories of Tuesday's loss.
"What are you going to hold on to that for?" DiMaio said. "It's counterproductive. There's another game (tonight) and we've got a lot of hockey left. You can't dwell on one game that you lost badly. If you do, you might as well pack it in now. We've got to look ahead and see what we can achieve here. You've just got to hold on to the good ones and get rid of the bad ones."
Tuesday was not the first game the Lightning lost 8-2 this season. New Jersey blasted the Lightning by the same score on Nov. 25. After that loss, the Lightning went on to win its next five games.
"You recover by going hard the next day and focusing on what you have to do," Burke said.
"Most everything about this game is in your mind. You put the bad game away and start working on what it takes to be successful. That's what we have to do."