tampabay.com

Goaltending, defense falter again

By TOM JONES
Published March 10, 2006


BUFFALO, N.Y. - Coach John Tortorella keeps saying if the Lightning isn't going to get decent goaltending and solid defense (and neither came in a deadline trade), it will be forced to win games by simply outscoring the other team.

Unfortunately for it, the Lightning emptied its satchel Thursday night and still didn't have enough goals to win.

The Lightning's offense could not keep pace with all the goals allowed by a shaky team defense and goalies John Grahame and Sean Burke, and the result was an 8-5 loss to the Sabres at the HSBC Arena.

Brad Richards had a career-high four points. Pavel Kubina had three points. The power play perked up to score three times, and Marty St. Louis snapped a one-goal-in-16-games drought. And it still wasn't close to being enough.

The loss is the Lightning's fourth in five games since the end of the Olympic break and leaves it one point ahead of eighth-place Montreal and only four ahead Atlanta for the last playoff spot in the East.

The common theme in all four losses? Goals allowed. In fact, the Lightning has allowed four goals or more in six consecutive games.

A calm Tortorella refused to talk about individual players and, in particular, refused to comment on the goaltending. But he had praise for his team.

"I thought they showed a tremendous amount of resiliency," he said.

After falling behind 1-0, the Lightning took a 2-1 lead then fought back from one-goal deficits three more times, the last being St. Louis' goal to make it 5-5 with 11:17 left.

But Grahame allowed five goals on only 16 shots through two periods, and Burke allowed two on six shots. Derek Roy completed a hat trick with a late empty-net goal that leaves the Lightning's confidence shaken with three games left on a five-game road trip.

"Keep fighting," Tortorella said. "We just got to stay together as a team and keep fighting."

MILLEY WAIVED, DEMOTED: Forward Norm Milley cleared waivers and was sent to minor-league Springfield. In 14 games, Milley, 26, had two goals, one assist and was a minus-2.

"He's a good kid," Tortorella said. "We think he has a chance to play. I think conditioning is one thing you can control as an athlete, and I think he needs to control that. The next time he gets a chance here ... (he has) got to come with a mind-set of making a difference."

MISCELLANY: Forward Evgeny Artyukhin served the second game of his two-game suspension and is eligible to play Saturday in Toronto. ... Forward Nick Tarnasky left the game in the first period with a hyperextended right arm and did not return.