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Lightning earns unlikely win

Todd Warriner scores twice as Tampa Bay ends an 8-game skid with a 3-2 win over the Blues.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2001


photo
[Times photo: Dan McDuffie]
Todd Warriner celebrates his first-period goal that gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead 1:04 into the game.
TAMPA -- Kevin Weekes knows what people are going to say.

The Lightning goaltender figures people will see that the Blues were without five injured starters Tuesday night, including defensive stars Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis.

So they will hear that Tampa Bay defeated St. Louis 3-2 in front of an announced 13,442 at the Ice Palace and say, "Yeah, but ... "

Yeah, but nothing, Weekes said.

"A win against the Blues is a win against the Blues. They still beat a lot of high-quality teams without those guys. Nobody ever feels sorry for us, and we don't feel sorry for anybody else," he said.

The victory snapped the Lightning's eight-game losing streak and was a stark reversal from Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Predators that featured another third-period meltdown.

But against the league's No. 2 team, the Lightning stayed focused and aggressive in the final 20 minutes. And it killed off a series of penalties early in the period that had it down four-on-three for 28 seconds, five-on-three for 1:11 and five-on-four for 21 seconds.

Defenseman Pavel Kubina got the winner 4:31 into the period off a nice feed from Brian Holzinger. Todd Warriner scored his eighth and ninth goals in the first and second periods, and Weekes made 28 saves as he outdueled shaky Roman Turek despite Tampa Bay being outshot 30-20.

"It feels great," said Kubina, whose career-high-tying ninth goal broke a 2-2 tie. "We played a great game. We were a better team than they were."

"They were a team desperate for a win," said St. Louis coach Joel Quenneville, whose team lost its third straight. "They've got some skill. They've got some speed. They've got some young guys that have real good energy. It was a tough loss for us."

For the first time in a long time, Tampa Bay got some bounces. The most important came at the end of that series of penalties on Martin St. Louis, Fredrik Modin and Kubina, a series for which coach John Tortorella gave referee Brad Watson an earful.

St. Louis' Jochen Hecht hit the post from Weekes' right and broke the goaltender's stick on a slash. That not only wiped out the last 21 seconds of the Blues' power play, it created a man advantage for the Lightning.

And though Tampa Bay technically did not score on the power play -- it went 0-for-9 -- Kubina's goal came just as the man advantage expired, which meant Hecht was still in the penalty box. That leaves the Lightning 3-for-55 in its past nine games.

It was a nice moment for Kubina, whose fumbling of the puck in the Lightning end in the first period led to Scott Mellanby's powerplay goal that tied the score at 1.

"Holzinger gave me a great pass, and I knew their goalie has the glove on the right hand, so I had to go high to have a chance to score," Kubina said.

The Lightning, which lost 21 of its previous 24 games, scored on other fronts as well. Warriner, who had three goals in his previous 34 games, responded when Tortorella put him on a line with center Vinny Lecavalier and Matthew Barnaby.

Forward Nils Ekman had an assist, which upped his point streak to four games. He also made a crucial play along the boards at the St. Louis blue line in the final minute, keeping the puck in the Blues' end after they pulled Turek for an extra skater.

Defenseman Jassen Cullimore led the Lightning with four hits. Defenseman Grant Ledyard bounced back after a rough game in Nashville. The Lightning, which hadn't beaten the Blues at home since February 1997, even won a majority of the faceoffs, a rare occurence.

All things considered, you would think Tortorella would have at least cracked a smile.

"Why get high," Tortorella said. "It's one win. The biggest thing we need to strive for is consistency."

Yeah, but ...

Yeah, but nothing.

"We're happy to win a hockey game," he said. "But we have to come back and do it again."

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