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Same Lightning for new coach

John Tortorella's debut begins with a two-goal lead but ends in 7-4 loss to Hawks.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 8, 2001


CHICAGO -- The Lightning proved it can lose ugly no matter who is behind the bench.

photo
[AP photo]
Lightning defenseman Paul Mara gets a rest as instructions are given by associate coach John Torchetti.
With new coach John Tortorella in charge, Tampa Bay was outshot 43-20 and gave up five consecutive goals, including three in a horrible second period, in a 7-4 loss to the Blackhawks on Sunday night at the United Center.

The news could be even grimmer as center Vinny Lecavalier was helped off the ice with 8:58 left after a collision with linesman Jonny Murray.

Lecavalier was on a rush when he lost his edge and barreled into Murray, who tried to leap out of the way. The preliminary diagnosis was a cut nose and a strained neck.

Tampa Bay also lost goaltender Kevin Weekes to a groin injury early in the second, leaving Dan Cloutier to face Chicago's onslaught with little defensive help.

"At times tonight, we couldn't make a 10-foot pass," Tortorella said. "That's not an excuse. The excuses are done.

"We can't get any further down. We have to start working ourselves up."

Former Lightning center Michael Nylander scored twice, giving him 14 goals, and Tony Amonte scored twice, giving him 21, to help the Blackhawks to their sixth win in nine games.

Tampa Bay, winless in five, has lost four straight. It was a nightmare first game for Tortorella, who took over Sunday for the fired Steve Ludzik.

Brian Holzinger scored two goals for Tampa Bay, which had a 3-1 lead 12:03 in.

The Lightning had the game's first five shots on goal, but ended up being outshot 16-10 in the first.

Holzinger's first goal came at 4:58 off a rebound of Alexander Kharitonov's slap shot.

The Blackhawks tied the score at 6:42 at the tail end of a two-on-one between Steve Dubinsky and Jean-Yves Leroux. Dubinsky passed cross-ice to Leroux, but Weekes made a sprawling save. The rebound came to the slot, where Dean McAmmond had an open net at which to shoot.

Holzinger gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead at 12:03, when he picked up the puck in the neutral zone and moved in on Jocelyn Thibault when the Blackhawks did not cover the slot. Holzinger's shot was pinpoint to the long side.

It was 3-1 at 16:41 when Wayne Primeau scored his second goal of the season and first since Nov. 5, a span of 23 games. Martin St. Louis made the play behind the net by gaining the puck and passing to Primeau.

Chicago came back 58 seconds later when Eric Daze scored on a blast from the slot to the top corner of the net.

The second period was a disaster for the Lightning. The team was outshot 18-6, played horrific defense and allowed three goals -- two within 36 seconds. It also lost Weekes 4:47 in.

Chicago tied the score at 3 on a power-play goal at 7:23 by Jaroslav Spacek. Amonte made the seeing-eye pass from the goal line to Cloutier's left. The puck went through the crease and a crowd in front of the net and right to a charging Spacek, who was unattended.

Amonte gave the Blackhawks a 4-3 lead at 11:54 on a fluky play, but one facilitated by more lax defense.

Alexei Zhamnov fed the puck to Daze in front of the net. Daze tried for the tip in, but instead tipped the puck right to Amonte, who was by himself to Cloutier's right and jammed the puck home for his 20th goal.

It was 5-3 at 12:30 when Nylander lurked to Cloutier's right, again unattended, and jumped on the rebound of Jamie Allison's shot from the slot. Cloutier had made a save but could not control the puck.

It might have been worse had not Cloutier come up with some dazzling stops.

There was a series of three big ones in a span that ended at 8:55. It began when Lecavalier gave the puck away to Steve Sullivan, whose shot was stopped by Cloutier's quick glove.

Cloutier also stopped Sullivan in a one-on-one confrontation by diving to his left to deny the net.

Nylander got his second at 5:12 of the third when Daze fed him off a two-on-none.

Kharitonov scored with 3:32 left off a scramble in front of the net.

Amonte scored and empty net goal with 55.4 left.

* * *

UP NEXT: Lightning at Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

TV/RADIO: Sunshine, WDAE-AM 620.

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