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Lightning rally provides excitement, but no win

Tampa Bay scores three in the third but falls 5-4 to the Sabres.

By BRANT JAMES

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 26, 2001


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Fewer than 24 hours after extracting a large measure of good feeling from a scoreless tie in Philadelphia, the Lightning proved it's still not ready to be that sharp every day.

photo
[AP photo]
Tampa Bay's Ryan Johnson is off his feet but not out of the play in Sunday's game with Buffalo. He swats at the puck after being checked into the boards by the Sabres' Doug Gilmour.
Stung by an awful first 10 minutes and three power-play goals, the Lightning made an uneven performance more frustrating with a rally that fell short as Buffalo won 5-4 at HSBC Arena on Sunday.

"Those late goals did take some sting out of it," said goaltender Kevin Weekes, who had 32 saves. "Does it make it better? Sure. Does it make it really better? Not really. You don't get compensated for coming close."

Buffalo, leading 5-2, went on its 10th power play at 15:14 of the third after Grant Ledyard was called for interference on a hit that briefly knocked out Vaclav Varada.

That sparked the Lightning, however. Nils Ekman and Todd Warriner snared short-handed goals 25 seconds apart to pull Tampa Bay within a goal at 16:28.

Coach John Tortorella pulled Weekes for the extra skater with 1:16 left, but Buffalo held on behind goaltender Dominik Hasek, who finished with 22 saves in his 500th game.

The 16-38-3 Lightning has 41 points and is last in the Eastern Conference.

Absent from the late rush and much of the game was center Vinny Lecavalier, who played 11 shifts and 8 minutes, 53 seconds. Tortorella said the move was made as it would have been with any other player.

"The whole group knows what we're expecting here and everybody needs to live by that," Tortorella said. "Keep battling and working both ends of the ice -- everything we tried to accomplish and did in Philly. We have to be consistent and that goes for everybody.

"If someone loses ice time, obviously it's just not working out that we're getting that commitment. We're looking for a commitment from everybody."

A late first-period goal by Ryan Johnson had seemingly settled Tampa Bay, which was outplayed in the first period but trailed 2-1. That impression lasted about nine minutes, until the slick Sabres again began swarming inside the Lightning zone.

At 10:59 of the second, with Buffalo on the power play, Miroslav Satan passed to Dave Andreychuk on a give-and-go, drove directly to the net between Adrian Aucoin and Ben Clymer, took the pass back and beat Weekes for a 3-1 lead. The score was Satan's 24th of the season.

Ten seconds later, Lecavalier lost the puck after a faceoff win and Vladimir Tsyplakov took a pass from Curtis Brown and scored for a 4-1 lead.

Buffalo nearly punched in another on the subsequent faceoff, and after Jassen Cullimore was called for holding to end the play, Weekes demonstrated his frustration by smashing his stick in half on the ice.

"I was frustrated, but frustrated from the start of the game, because they dominated us from the opening faceoff," Weekes said.

Hasek, 5-1 in his past six games, gave the Lightning little hope until the third, when he allowed three goals. Cullimore's first of the season at 3:33 of the third pulled the Lightning within 4-2, but Andreychuk scored the winner four minutes later.

The Sabres had been seething since a 7-3 home loss to Phoenix on Friday, and came out flying in the first. Their team speed, combined with the Lightning's step-slow appearance, made much of the period look like an extended power play, and it started early, when Andreychuk took a pass across the crease from ex-Lightning Chris Gratton and gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 2:48.

Buffalo tried the power play for real at 11:09 when center Brian Holzinger was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for leading with his elbow on a check of Dimitri Kalinin. The Sabres kept the Lightning's second shift of Ledyard, Kristian Kudroc, Martin St. Louis and Ryan Johnson on the zone for an exhausting shift before Jean-Pierre Dumont found Doug Gilmour by the net for a 2-0 lead at 14:27.

* * *

UP NEXT: Lightning at Bruins, 7 p.m. Thursday; Sunshine, WDAE-AM 620.

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