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Top line scores three, but hope drains in 3rdwith 6th straight loss.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
Published January 4, 2008
MONTREAL - This is how it's going for the Lightning right now.
Fifty-eight seconds into Thursday night's game with the Canadiens, left wing Vinny Prospal beat Montreal goaltender Cristobal Huet and watched the puck hit the inside of a post.
Andrei Kostitsyn's shot from the side boards deflected into the net off the glove of Tampa Bay goalie Karri Ramo.
The goal, 7:54 into the third period, began a three-goal barrage for the Canadiens, who ran away with a 6-3 victory at the Bell Centre.
"If we were on some kind of winning streak," Prospal said, "mine would have bounced into the net from the post."
Instead, the Lightning 15-22-4 lost its sixth straight and ninth of 10. And if the Kings beat the Blue Jackets in a late West Coast game, they will have passed the Lightning and dropped it into last in the 30-team league.
Let that one sink in for a moment.
Consider, too, the Lightning played its best game in a while. It came back twice from two-goal deficits, scored at least three goals in consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 1 and 4, and saw the re-emergence of the MVP line, which accounted for seven of the team's eight points.
Prospal had a goal, his 18th, and two assists. Center Vinny Lecavalier scored his 27th, and right wing Marty St. Louis his 15th and second in as many games. Both had assists.
That after a challenge the day before from coach John Tortorella, who wants his core players to carry the hoped-for resurgence.
"Our top players put it right in my face," Tortorella said. "They were our best players on the ice."
But they couldn't overcome some bad defensive work, poor discipline and inconsistent goaltending.
That the most damage came in the third period that began with the score 3-3 highlighted one of the Lightning's most damaging flaws. It has been outscored 58-38 in the third period, losing 10 games, two after regulation, in which it was tied or leading entering the period.
"It is tough to explain why," Prospal said.
Let's give him some help.
Ramo, who at times looked spectacular making 24 saves, whiffed on Kostitsyn's goal that broke the tie.
Kyle Chipchura made it 5-3 at the end of a play in which defenseman Paul Ranger gave the puck away twice and Ramo was out of position.
Michael Ryder's second goal of the game with 4:38 left made it 6-3 after Ranger, who was minus-3, gave away the puck at the Canadiens blue line.
Montreal, which has the league's top power play, also got three extra-man chances in the first period. The result: a 2-0 Canadiens lead.
But it was Kostitsyn's goal that really hurt.
"I let our teammates down," said Ramo, 21, who is 1-4-1 since his callup from AHL Norfolk. "I should have had it. It got a piece of me and went through. I should be more sharp on those chances."
"I liked the fight in our team tonight in battling back. We just haven't been able to finish a game," Tortorella said. "We're going to continue coaching. We're going to continue staying together and find some positives and force things to come our way.
Whether they are 29th in the league or 30th.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8622.
[Last modified January 4, 2008, 01:09:58]