tampabay.com

Goalie amiss; so is Lightning

Johan Holmqvist laments goals he says he should have stopped, and teammates can't shoot straight.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published January 30, 2008


TAMPA - Lightning goaltender Johan Holmqvist said he should have saved the Sabres' second goal Tuesday night.

He said he should have had the third, too. And an argument can be made he should have stopped the fourth.

"I don't know what to say," Holmqvist said after Buffalo's 4-2 win at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Holmqvist wasn't the only player at fault in yet another disheartening loss.

There were bad defensive plays and Tampa Bay, outshot 26-25, missed 20 shots, some at open nets. The Sabres missed three. But Holmqvist agreed that a couple of key saves at key times and "it might have been a little different game."

As it turned out, it was much the same for Tampa Bay (20-26-5),which fell to 2-9-1 at home since Dec.8 while being outscored 50-28.

Worse, it fell nine points behind first-place Carolina in the Southeast and lost to a team that came in on a 2-7-5 streak and on a 1-5-3 streak on the road.

And it did it in front of a national television audience.

"It wasn't for a lack of energy," right wing Marty St. Louis said. "The effort was there. If we play with that kind of energy in every game, good things are going to happen for us."

Good things did happen.

Center Brad Richards scored his 15th goal in the second period during a five-on-three power play. Left wing Vinny Prospal scored his 20th on a third-period power play as Tampa Bay cut into a 4-0 deficit.

Defenseman Dan Boyle had two assists and has four points in two games since returning from left wrist surgery.

Not enough, though, when a team insists on digging itself a hole.

Consider the check thrown by Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Lukowich on Jochen Hecht. The Sabres center was knocked off the play. But Lukowich, out of the play himself, also took out Richards. And when the puck went to Jason Pominville, the two-on-one led to Clarke MacArthur's goal 4:58 into the game.

It was 2-0 with 7:46 left in the first when Holmqvist gave Pominville too much on the short side. It was 3-0 10:00 into the second period when Drew Stafford tipped under Holmqvist's pads Toni Lydman's dribbling shot from the point.

"I should find the puck but I didn't," Holmqvist said. "Maybe when it was one foot in front of me I saw it. That was a key goal."

"It just puts the other team in a different frame of mind," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of the third goal. "It makes them change their game. Instead of being safer and defending they have to get on their toes. They have to take some chances."

It would have helped to get more chances on net.

Michel Ouellet missed an open net 2:37 into the game. St. Louis missed a one-timer at an open net. Vinny Lecavalier missed the net on a two-on-one.

In the second period alone, Tampa Bay, outshot 12-6, missed nine shots.

"We tried to score on perfect shots rather than thinking someone should get the rebound," Ouellet said. "Sometimes you just have to hit the net and the rebound lands on your stick."

"That's the way it went," coach John Tortorella said. "I thought we played hard right on through. But we didn't finish."

Holmqvist never really got started.

Sabres  2 2 0 -- 4

Lightning  0 1 1 -- 2

First-1, Buffalo, MacArthur 6 (Pominville, Hecht), 4:58; 2, Buffalo, Pominville 12 (MacArthur, Lydman), 12:14. Penalties-Prospal, TB (high-sticking), 8:37.

Second-3, Buffalo, Stafford 13 (Roy, Lydman), 10:00. 4, Buffalo, Roy 19 (Hecht, Pominville), 16:45. 5, Tampa Bay, Richards 15 (Boyle, Prospal), 19:22 (pp). Penalties-Kaleta, Buf (diving), 7:05; Roy, TB (roughing), 7:05; O'Brien, TB (boarding), 7:05; Gratton, TB (hooking), 14:44; Kalinin, Buf (holding), 17:24; Tallinder, Buf (delay of game), 17:51.

Third-6, Tampa Bay, Prospal 20 (Boyle, Lecavalier), 12:22 (pp). Penalties-Macarthur, Buf (interference), :41; Macarthur, Buf (hooking), 12:09; Kotalik, Buf (hooking), 20:00. Shots on Goal-Buffalo 8-12-6-26. Tampa Bay 9-6-10-25. Power plays-Buffalo 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 2 of 4. Goalies-Buffalo, Miller 20-17-5 (25 shots-23 saves). Tampa Bay, Holmqvist 17-14-4 (26-22). A-18,920 (19,758). T-2:20.