'Bad penalty' leads to another loss

The Caps take advantage of Shane O'Brien's high-stick to keep the Lightning slumping.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
Published December 16, 2007

TAMPA - Shane O'Brien did not have a sword to fall on, so he punished himself with his words.

With head up but voice low, the Lightning defenseman took the blame for Saturday night's 3-2 loss to the Capitals at the St. Pete Times Forum, saying there was no excuse for his high-sticking penalty that led to the winning power-play goal.

"I took a bad penalty there," said O'Brien, whose stick shaft popped forward Brooks Laich across the face. "I was just trying to win a battle. I was trying to get in there and lift his stick. When I went up, it must have slid up his shaft and snapped his head back."

Brian Pothier scored 5:06 into the third period to break a 2-2 tie. But there was more to the loss, Tampa Bay's second straight and fourth in five games, than a stray stick shaft.

The Lightning (14-16-3) was outshot 32-25 and took only 14 shots in the final two periods, seven in each. The power play was 0-for-4.

That was enough to undo a lot of good.

Goaltender Johan Holmqvist, pulled from his two previous starts, was solid with 29 saves. The defense killed off a 1:13 five-on-three, a four-minute power play and held Alex Ovechkin to zero points.

And Vinny Lecavalier improved to a league-best 51 points with his 22nd goal and an assist on Paul Ranger's tally that gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead 4:28 into the game.

But the Capitals, last in the East but 7-4-1 under new coach Bruce Boudreau, gave the Lightning little ice with which to work by stacking the neutral zone.

"I just don't think we did enough to win," center Brad Richards said. "It was disappointing that way. They outworked us in some areas, and that's why they had the win."

"On a night when (Ovechkin) said to me, 'It wasn't my night,' when everybody can step up, that's an indicator of you becoming a good team," Boudreau said.

For coach John Tortorella, that Tampa Bay entered tied for 10th in the league with 161 penalties told him it needs more of the discipline that in previous seasons made it one of the NHL's least-penalized teams.

Told O'Brien was being hard on himself, Tortorella said, "He should be.

"We can't continue to take penalties. O.B.'s got to be responsible with that stick. He's had a terrible habit of getting his stick in the air. We're trying to cure him of it."

O'Brien said the cure lies with him: "It's my responsibility to keep my stick down."

And his head up.