Tampa Bay erases a 3-0 deficit to Edmonton only to lose 5-4 in overtime.
By KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001
TAMPA -- The puck, the game and the winning streak lay still between Kevin Weekes' pads.
The Lightning goaltender was flat on his back, blind to what was about to happen in the moments that followed.
After he stopped Edmonton forward Mike Grier's wraparound shot and fell to the ice to cover the puck, Oilers defenseman Eric Brewer had found the puck sitting in the open. He flipped it over Weekes to give Edmonton a 5-4 overtime win before an announced 14,596 on Tuesday at the Ice Palace.
"I thought I had it frozen," Weekes said. "I was laying there thinking that it was beneath me and not wanting to move.
"I don't know what happened. They had I don't know how many guys converge on the net. Next thing you know, I heard their guys yelling in their corner."
Brewer's goal 1:17 into overtime and goalie Tommy Salo's 17 saves secured Edmonton's team-record ninth straight victory. The Oilers tied the longest winning streak in the NHL this season.
"This just shows me how badly we wanted (the record)," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "They went out and found a way to do it, and Brewer got the big goal in overtime. That's certainly one of the bigger goals in his career."
The Lightning gained a point, but it very well should have won.
Three unanswered goals by Edmonton in the first period forced Tampa Bay, going for its first four-game winning streak in four years, to play desperately. "It stinks we didn't get two points," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "But after the first half hour of watching that team, to get one point out of there, we're pretty happy about that."
Edmonton center Sergei Zholtok scored 16 seconds in, and left wing Ryan Smyth and center Mike Comrie made it 3-0 with their goals.
"The puck dropped at 7:30, and 7:30 is when we should've been ready to play," said Weekes, who faced 30 shots in his fourth consecutive start. "We weren't ready to play until 8:30 when the second period started. We dug ourselves a hole."
The Lightning nearly climbed out by scoring three goals in 78 seconds during the second period and with Brian Holzinger's tying score 14:46 into the third period.
Brad Richards scored twice in the second and assisted on Holzinger's power-play goal in the third. Left wing Fredrik Modin and defenseman Adrian Aucoin each had two assists.
"We didn't hang our heads," said Richards, who tied a career high in points. "It could have been a disaster. It wasn't. ... If we hang our heads, it probably would've been one of our worst games of the year."
The decisive goal came as several players battled around the net after Grier's wraparound. Defenseman Cory Sarich guarded one player as left wing Nils Ekman tried to fight his way to the puck.
"I was trying to yell to Weeksie so he could see it," Ekman said.
Said Sarich: "I saw it lying there, but I took the man. I'm worried about a guy taking his stick and whacking it in. Maybe I should have turned around and whacked it away. But the guy in front is my first concern. If he scores, it's my fault."
The blame unquestionably falls on the first period. And the Lightning's three-game winning streak is over.
"We did a lot of the good things that we needed to do to overcome the deficit and tie the game," Weekes said. "We were in a position to win. It's just unfortunate that we have to lose in overtime. It's just frustrating when you lose in overtime."
COMING BACK: Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina, sidelined for the past eight games because of a dislocated right kneecap, said he expects to return against Toronto on Thursday.
"It's still going to take a couple of shifts to get that game speed," he said, "but I was working hard the entire weeks."
Kubina, from the Czech Republic, is particularly excited about Saturday's game against Pittsburgh, which features Czech players Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka, and coach Ivan Hlinka. Kubina has two goals and five assists in 13 games against the Penguins.
ODDS AND ENDS: Saturday's game, the first at home against Pittsburgh since Mario Lemieux returned, is sold out. ... Center John Emmons was a healthy scratch.