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Lightning: no answer for Jagr

Pittsburgh's top scorer puts two in the net in the third to key a 4-2 win.

[AP photo]
Tampa Bay Lightning's Matt Elich flies over the stick of Pittsburgh Penguins' Robert Lang.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 5, 2001


PITTSBURGH -- Coach John Tortorella stood in front of the Lightning locker room at Mellon Arena before Wednesday night's game against the Penguins and talked about how his players had to stay out of the penalty box.

So what did the Lightning do? It gave Pittsburgh six power-play chances.

Jaromir Jagr cashed in on two in the third period to give him 51 goals -- the second time he has reached 50 in his career -- and pace the Penguins to a 4-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 17,148.

Mario Lemieux assisted on Jagr's second goal and totaled two assists.

"Do the math," Tortorella said. "You can't sit in the box six times against these guys."

But Tampa Bay, which is a league-worst 7-27-3-3 on the road, thought the equation was skewed. First by losing leading scorer Fredrik Modin to a jammed hip in the first period. Second by inconsistent calls from referees Mike Hasenfratz and Brad Meier.

"We were down six times," Tortorella said. "But I don't blame the players for a few of those on either team. It's a joke."

Defenseman Jassen Cullimore was critical of the holding call 5:50 into the third that led to Jagr's first goal at 6:07 -- a slap shot from the wing that deflected off Lightning defenseman Cory Sarich and past Kevin Weekes to break a 1-1 tie.

Captain Vinny Lecavalier, whose 22nd goal gave the Lightning a 1-0 second-period lead, went wide-eyed when discussing his holding call. The penalty wiped out a Tampa Bay power play and led to Jagr's second goal at 11:30 that gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead.

"He was falling anyway," Lecavalier said of the Penguins player. "I was just kind of leaning on him. It was a bad call."

Forward Nils Ekman also joined the cry. He questioned his hooking penalty in the second period that wiped out a Lightning power play. And he wondered why no call was made when he was cross-checked in front of the Penguins goal in the third.

"The level they held was not good," Ekman said of the referees "You have to be more consistent."

"We look at it like the refs are human and there's bound to be a little leniency one way and not the other," Cullimore said.

But he added, "That's besides the point. We were still on the ice and still had a chance to win it."

The Lightning made it 3-2 on defenseman Kristian Kudroc's slap shot 17 seconds after Jagr's second goal. But Alexei Kovalev scored his 44th goal into an empty net with 1:18 remaining.

"We just have to, as a team, learn to respect ourselves and respect our opponent," said Weekes, who celebrated his 26th birthday with a fine 33-save effort. "As we get better, we will continue to put ourselves in position to win (and) keep ourselves in a position to win."

Correct calls or not, that means not giving high-powered teams such as the Penguins the man advantage.

Even Pittsburgh's first goal by Aleksey Morozov at 18:06 of the second, which tied the score at 1, could be considered a power-play goal. It came one second after a penalty for holding the stick on Lightning defenseman Stan Neckar expired, and Neckar had not gotten back into the play.

"You can't give them that many power plays, especially a team like that," Lecavalier said. "Mario's running around making awesome passes and Jagr is putting them in."

MODIN HURT: Modin, who has a team-high 32 goals, was hurt at 11:43 of the first period when his skate caught in the ice as he and Pittsburgh defenseman Andrew Ference charged the slot toward the Penguins goal.

Modin fell into Penguins goaltender Johan Hedberg but said the injury already had occurred.

"I heard something pop," said Modin, who is questionable for tonight's game against the Rangers.

LAST CHANCE IN TAMPA: About 1,000 tickets remain for the Lightning's home finale, tonight against the Rangers. After the game, Tampa Bay players will give their game jerseys to fans selected randomly through ticket stubs.

SEASON-TICKET OFFER: New season-ticket subscribers have until April 30 to purchase tickets at this year's prices. A $100 deposit can be placed by calling (813) 301-6600. The deposit will guarantee a seat but not a location. Those will be selected after current season tickets are renewed. That process will be announced soon.

ODDS AND ENDS: Lightning center Brian Holzinger will miss the season's final two games with a stress fracture in his right ankle. Medical trainer Dave Boyer said Holzinger will be in a cast for two to four weeks, but should be ready for training camp. ... Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who will start tonight, and forward Alexander Kharitonov were healthy scratches.

Tonight: Lightning vs. Rangers

WHEN/WHERE: 7:30; Ice Palace, Tampa.

TV/RADIO: Sunshine; WDAE-AM 620.

THE LOWDOWN: Nikolai Khabibulin is expected to start in goal for Tampa Bay in its final home game. ... Tampa Bay was on its way to its first winning season at home since 1995-96, but five consecutive losses at the Ice Palace have dropped the Lightning's record there to 17-19-3-1. ... The Rangers have won three straight on the road and are 15-22-2. ... New York had won four in a row before losing to Carolina on Wednesday. ... New York's Brian Leetch leads all defenseman with 79 points, and had two goals and three assists in six games. ... The Rangers lead the league with 16 short-handed goals. ... Lightning left wing Fredrik Modin had two goals and three assists in six games. ... Entering play Wednesday, the Rangers had the league's worst road penalty kill, 154-for-203 for a 75.9 percent efficiency. ... The Rangers were the NHL's second-most penalized team, averaging 18.7 minutes. ... This is the final meeting. The Lightning is 1-2. ... The Rangers lead the series 19-15-5 and are 9-7-3 in Tampa. -- Compiled by Damian Cristodero.

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