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Lightning no longer riding high

The division leaders come out flat, and the Bruins take advantage.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published February 24, 2007


TAMPA - Lightning players might have woken up Friday atop the Southeast Division with the memory of an overtime win fresh in their minds, but even they will admit they haven't been playing their best hockey.

The fine line between an exciting sudden-death victory and a frustrating rout became reality Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum as the Lightning lost 6-2 to Boston.

A day after taking the division lead, the Lightning played nothing like a champion.

The Lightning (35-25-3) still hold the division lead with 73 points, one ahead of idle Atlanta, but this game served as a wake-up call.

"I think we've gotten away from our 60 minutes of hockey," Lightning captain Tim Taylor said. "Honestly, I think we've gotten a little lucky. We were kidding ourselves when we were winning in shootouts and we had an overtime loss. I think we needed a clear pounding. We got our butts kicked tonight."

Unlike the night before, when the team overcame a pair of two-goal deficits to beat Atlanta 5-4 in overtime, the Lightning couldn't muster a comeback.

And unlike Thursday night, it was far over before the third period. Starting goaltender Marc Denis was pulled after allowing a pair of goals in the first 9:41. For Denis, who had won his past four decisions, it was his earliest exit this season.

But Lightning coach John Tortorella took the brunt of the loss on his shoulders, saying he shouldn't have put Denis in goal after three consecutive starts and on back-to-back nights.

"That game's my fault," Tortorella said. "Bad decisions by coach.

"I'm not trying to run down Marc," he said. "I don't think I put him in the best position. I put him in a bad position tonight, and I shouldn't have done it. I'm not going to dissect the hockey team tonight because it falls with me."

Denis, far from his best, couldn't cover up Marco Sturm's shot 1:46 into the first, and the puck slid between his legs.

The Lightning responded with a power-play goal by defenseman Dan Boyle, his 14th of the season, from the left circle.

But Brad Boyes scored his first of two goals with a putback of Bobby Allen's wrister from the blue line at 9:41. Tortorella immediately pulled Denis for Johan Holmqvist.

Tampa Bay spent much of the first period fighting through three penalties, including a hooking call on Ryan Craig in the period's final two minutes.

And Holmqvist didn't fare much better than Denis, allowing a pair of Boston goals in the second period.

Boyes scored on a breakaway, beating Holmqvist on a backhanded deke at 3:58 in the period, and Phil Kessel beat him with a wrist shot at 12:41 in the period.

Boston added a goal at 4:32 in the third, when Brandon Bochenski scored on a power play 1:27 into a holding penalty on Marty St. Louis.

The Bruins finished off the onslaught with Stanislav Chistov's goal from the slot at 9:31 in the third.

Filip Kuba's one-timer from the blue line at 14:29 past Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, who had 24 saves in the win, was of little relevance.

First Period-1, Boston, Sturm 20 (Kessel, Bochenski), 1:46. 2, Tampa Bay, Boyle 14 (Richards, Lecavalier), 5:29 (pp). 3, Boston, Boyes 10 (Allen, Savard), 9:41. Penalties-Axelsson, Bos (high-sticking), 3:24; Allen, Bos (delay of game), 4:41; Fedotenko, TB (hooking), 6:15; Perrin, TB (goalie interference), 12:11; Craig, TB (hooking), 18:44.

Second Period-4, Boston, Boyes 11 (Savard, Axelsson), 3:58. 5, Boston, Kessel 8 (Bochenski, Sturm), 12:41. Penalties-Chistov, Bos (tripping), 6:30; Chistov, Bos (hooking), 8:50.

Third Period-6, Boston, Bochenski 8 (Savard, Axelsson), 4:30 (pp). 7, Boston, Chistov 5 (Chara, Mowers), 9:31. 8, Tampa Bay, Kuba 9 (Perrin), 14:29. Penalties-St. Louis, TB (holding), 3:03; Reich, Bos, major (fighting), 4:32; Tarnasky, TB, major (fighting), 4:32; Roy, TB, minor-misconduct (roughing), 19:38. Shots on Goal-Boston 9-9-5-23. Tampa Bay 6-9-11-26. Power-play opportunities-Boston 1 of 5; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies-Boston, Thomas 27-18-3 (26 shots-24 saves). Tampa Bay, Denis (7 shots-5 saves), Holmqvist 21-12-1 (9:42 first, 16-12). A-21,201 (19,758). T-2:21. Referees-Tom Kowal, Ian Walsh. Linesmen-Derek Amell, Mark Shewchyk.

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