Escape comes hard way
Tampa Bay almost squanders a victory but weathers a late barrage and snaps a four-game skid.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published December 20, 2006
WASHINGTON - During a stretch in which the Lightning has allowed so many games to slip away, it finally found a way to escape defeat.
It wasn't without its share of the third-period drama Tampa Bay has grown accustomed to over the past 10 games, but in the end, the Lightning could look at its 5-4 victory over the Capitals Tuesday night at the Verizon Center for what it was: the end of a four-game losing streak.
"In these type of situations, when you do get the win like we did, maybe it springboards you to something," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "That's the way we're trying to look at it. ... This is a long year. We've been in stretches like this before."
After holding a three-goal lead early in the second period, the Lightning (15-17-2) survived two third-period goals in a span of 1:43 that cut the deficit to one and had the team fearing another disappointing loss.
"Deep down, we were far from calm," said Lightning wing Marty St. Louis, who had two goals, including a back-handed power-play score 1:35 into the second that gave Tampa Bay a 4-1 lead. "It's nerve-racking a little bit. We've been on the other side of the result for a while now. We didn't get the bounces and we still won the game."
With the Lightning leading 5-2, Caps forward Kris Beech scored a power-play goal 10:29 into the third, after the second of two delay penalties for tossing the puck into the stands. It was followed by Bryan Muir's wrister from the right point past goaltender Marc Denis to make the score 5-4. That's when Tortorella called a timeout to calm his team down.
"When we called the timeout, that's what we talked about, not about being nervous, not about worrying what's happened," Tortorella said. "It's about a great opportunity to find out how to get a win here. I think these little lessons will help us get out of this jam."
The Lightning survived a third penalty late in the third despite three Capitals shots, including one by Dainius Zubrus from the right circle that hit the near post at 14:33. Washington had 15 third-period shots.
"We've had a lot of things go bad in the last 10, 15 minutes of hockey games as of late in close games," Lightning captain Tim Taylor said. "We gave ourselves a cushion. Unfortunately, we didn't like the way it ended. We didn't play as solid as we'd like to. We put up some penalties and they got some momentum. ... We tried to relax."
The Lightning took advantage early, scoring three power-play goals for the first time in its past 18 games, including Vinny Lecavalier's 200th career goal, which game on a shot from the right circle at 17:15 in the first and gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead. Lecavalier also added two assists.
The win was a far cry from the last meeting, which started the 1-7-1 skid Nov. 28 in Tampa. That time the Lightning could only score two goals in 50 shots on Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig.
"There were some blocks, some saves, some different faceoff wins," Lightning forward Brad Richards said. "All those little things added up to a win where last week it's one of this things where we don't get it done and it's in our own net. That's the difference."