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Lightning's streak finally a winner

Tampa Bay captures back-to-back games for the first time since December, stopping the Sabres 4-2.

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 2, 2001


TAMPA -- Mike Johnson was winded.

Awarded a penalty shot for being pulled down on a breakaway in the second period against Buffalo on Thursday, the Lightning right wing gathered himself at center ice before skating off to try to break a tie score.

"I got out there, and it was all so surreal," Johnson said. "It was so quiet."

The penalty shot, on which Johnson was stopped, was one of several surreal moments for the Lightning.

The team that lost a league-worst 10 straight and traded center Wayne Primeau to Pittsburgh hours before beat Buffalo 4-2 before an announced 12,610 at the Ice Palace.

Tampa Bay has its first winning streak since December.

"We're working that much harder, we're that much more focused, and we're that much more intense," goaltender Kevin Weekes said. "When we make a commitment to doing the things it takes to win, more often than not we'll have the result we're looking for. We feel there's more positive energy throughout the team."

Rookie defenseman Kristian Kudroc scored the winner, his first career goal, with 3:40 left in the second period. Johnson made up for his missed penalty shot by capping the victory with a third-period goal, his first in 24 games.

Rookie center Brad Richards added two points, pushing his total to five in the past two games, and Weekes stopped 23 shots.

"The thing I like in our last two games is our grittiness," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "Pushing back, winning the little battles ... you just hope that they think or they realize if they do that, they've got a good chance of winning. And then it all falls into place."

After a first-period goal by Richards and second-period goal by right wing Martin St. Louis made it 2-0, Buffalo scored twice in 54 seconds to tie. Center Doug Gilmour netted the latter with 11:55 left in the second.

Lightning has folded in similar situations. Why hasn't it done so in the past two victories?

"It may be one or two little things that nobody will ever notice unless you look at a video, but that could be the whole difference," Richards said. "Nobody is different here. We're still the same people."

Johnson took his penalty shot with 8:19 left in the second. He went straight at Martin Biron and wristed a shot toward Biron's right shoulder.

The puck nicked his arm.

"Another few inches higher, I might have got it over his shoulder," Johnson said. "He went down and took the bottom away. I tried to get it upstairs and just didn't get it up enough."

Less than five minutes later, Kudroc broke the tie.

Richards passed to Kudroc, who one-timed a shot from the left circle.

The shot would have gone well to the right of the net had Biron not stuck his glove out and deflected it into the net.

"It was great," Kudroc said. "It was very important for the game. I didn't try to score. I just tried to hit the net."

Johnson got his first goal since Nov. 24 on a feed from left wing Todd Warriner with 4:15 remaining.

It was his 10th goal of the season and third point in two games.

"I knew (Warriner) was going to pass it to me," Johnson said. "There was no way he was going to shoot that one. I was definitely ready for the pass. You know what? He almost saved it, too. He got a piece of it. Thank God it dribbled in."

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