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Wanted: a winning gear

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


BOSTON -- Despite losing 13 of 15 games, Lightning players have gotten kudos for their work ethic.

Coach John Tortorella said that is not enough, especially during the third period, in which Tampa Bay was outscored 26-3 during those losses.

"We need clutch performances," he said. "We're working hard, but we're playing in the NHL, so that's a given. You need to do something extra for us to get over this, and I'm not sure we're getting that from all our guys right now."

Tortorella said the third period woes haven't come as much from breakdowns or lack of effort as the opposition elevating its game.

"Part of our development is putting it in that extra gear: score that big goal or make that big save," Tortorella said. "I don't think they realize what it takes to do that extra thing. When you go into that extra gear, that's knowing how to win, and we haven't gotten there yet. "There is no pressure on us. We're not going to make the playoffs. We should be able to go out there and let it all hang out."

ON THE OTHER HAND: Defenseman Cory Sarich agreed the pressure is off from a team standpoint, "but you've got a lot of young guys that have to make every moment count to make sure you have a job. There is pressure on you to make every shift your best. Until you establish yourself and your job is secure, you have to work your hardest to stay in the lineup."

And don't underestimate the pressure that mounts from a losing streak.

"As a team we have nothing to lose, and we should be able to go out there and let it all hang out," he said. "But we've had so much bad luck, even when we're playing well, it takes a lot of mental toughness to overcome that."

AUCOIN ON HOLD: Newly acquired defenseman Adrian Aucoin did not play because he was waiting for his immigration paperwork to be completed. Aucoin worked out in Tampa and is expected to play Tuesday against the Coyotes at the Ice Palace.

FOOT FAULT: Tortorella said captain Vinny Lecavalier cut back on his skating after his fractured left foot swelled and he experienced increased soreness. Lecavalier, who has missed 14 games, hoped to play on the two-game road trip, but Tortorella said, "We just have to be careful there."

ODDS AND ENDS: Aucoin will wear No. 6. ... Defenseman Jassen Cullimore (bruised shin) and forward Stan Drulia (healthy) were scratched.

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