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A one-day reprieve

The Lightning caps an otherwise awful January with a 4-3 win over Florida.

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2001


photo
[Times photo: Dan McDuffie]
Tampa Bay's Todd Warriner, front, celebrates with Fredrik Modin after the first of Warriner's two third-period goals.
TAMPA -- January seemed so promising for the Lightning.

Play well and they would stay in contention for a playoff berth. Play well and Steve Ludzik would keep his job as coach. Play well and trade rumors would be nonexistent.

Oh, what a month it turned out to be.

For the Lightning's sake, and sanity, the worst month in franchise history ended Tuesday with a 4-3 win against Florida before an announced 11,752 at the Ice Palace.

Forgotten for one game, at least, was a 2-13-0-1 January in which Tampa Bay dropped to the Southeast Division cellar, replaced Ludzik and lost almost every way possible in the third period.

The first win in 11 games also meant the Lightning avoided the second-worst losing streak in team history. The last victory had come 20 days before, when it beat Toronto 3-1 on the road.

Left wing Todd Warriner had three points, including his first goals in 26 games. Center Brad Richards had three assists for Tampa Bay, which was backed by another solid performance in goal by Kevin Weekes. He faced 26 shots.

Right wing Mike Johnson (two assists) and Pavel Kubina (one goal, one assist) had two points each.

The Lightning led 1-0 at the end of the first period, but it could easily have led 4-0.

Right wing Martin St. Louis scored his eighth goal of the season with 10:48 remaining on a rebound.

It appeared Warriner scored, but he got his first assist in 20 games instead. Warriner caught up to a pass lofted into Florida's zone by Kubina and hit a backhanded shot at Panthers goalie Trevor Kidd, who faced 26 shots.

The rebound bounced right and toward the goal line. Right before it crossed over, St. Louis tapped the puck in.

It wasn't Warriner's first scoring chance of the game and wouldn't be the last.

Less than three minutes in, Kidd was caught out of position behind the net, and Warriner, set up in front, had a shot at an open net. He hit the crossbar on a tough angle.

Sheldon Keefe hit the post with 15:17 remaining, and center Wayne Primeau was stoned on a short-handed breakaway with less than five minutes left in the period.

The Lightning led 2-1 after a second period in which the teams combined for 38 penalty minutes (19 each).

Tampa Bay went up by two 1:47 into the period when Kubina scored his sixth power-play goal of the season on a slap shot from the left circle.

Johnson fed Kubina from the slot. It was the ninth power-play goal in 108 tries for the Lightning.

After a series of scrums chewed up middle part of the period, Florida left wing Ray Whitney scored on the power play with 6:24 remaining to make it 2-1. Whitney's shot from the blue line deflected up off the stick of Tampa Bay defenseman Jassen Cullimore and over Weekes' left shoulder.

The Lightning began the third period with this statistic in mind: It had lost nine of its past 10 after it had entered that period behind by one goal, tied or ahead by one.

Tampa Bay had a five-on-three advantage with 13:04 remaining. Warriner took advantage.

On a pass from the corner by Johnson, Warriner one-timed a shot over Kidd's right shoulder 8:07 into the period for his fifth goal of the season.

Johnson has four assists in the past five games.

Florida closed within 3-2 with 6:07 remaining when right wing Pavel Bure beat Weekes from the right corner on the Panthers' sixth power play of the game.

Less than 90 seconds later, Warriner scored his second of the game off a pass from Richards.

His slap shot from the right circle bounced off Kidd's pads into the back right of the net with 4:50 remaining.

Whitney scored his second of the game with 1:27 remaining to make it 4-3.

The Lightning held off Florida's six-on-four for 13.7 seconds after the Panthers pulled Kidd and Paul Mara committed a penalty,.

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