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Lightning wastes Cloutier's effort

The goaltender faces 41 shots and still has Tampa Bay in position to win until a late collapse.

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Lightning goaltender Dan Cloutier loses his stick while diving back in an unsuccessful effort to stop a Vancouver short-handed goal that put the Canucks ahead 5-4.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 9, 2000


TAMPA -- Dan Cloutier pedaled the exercise bike while sitting ramrod straight with arms crossed.

The Lightning goaltender was dutifully doing his post-game exercise, but his emotions were getting the real workout.

The Canucks scored three goals in the final 2 minutes, 55 seconds Sunday night to earn a 5-4 victory over the Lightning at the Ice Palace, and Cloutier was trying to figure out what exactly happened.

"They just kept coming at us," he said. "This is an honest game and that's what happens when you work hard. We're not looking for excuses. We just didn't play for 60 minutes. ... The last five minutes, I didn't play well."

It was nice of Cloutier to take part of the blame, but without Cloutier the Lightning would have been blown out.

Cloutier's 36 saves were a luxury in a game that saw Tampa Bay outshot 41-16 and at one point go 22:55 during the second and third periods without a shot on goal.

"He's the only thing that kept us in the game," Lightning goaltenders coach Jeff Reese said. "He made some great saves. He just kept coming up big. It's unfortunate the way it worked out. He deserved better."

"He stood on his head for us," center Brad Richards said. "When you are outshot 41-16, you don't expect to win too many games."

And yet, there was the Lightning, leading 4-2 because Cloutier made five stops during a third-period stretch in which Tampa Bay was short-handed for 2:59.

Then there were the three sturdy saves he made in the first 3:18 of the third period, two of which bailed out the defense.

He stopped Matt Cooke after Cooke went around defenseman Cory Sarich. He stopped Peter Schaefer, who stole a pass from defenseman Pavel Kubina.

Then there was the magnificent second-period save on Brendan Morrison, who was left alone to Cloutier's left but was a split second slower than Cloutier's left leg.

"We thought we were going to let Cloutier win it for us," Richards said, "and it doesn't work that way."

Cloutier almost stopped Denis Pederson's winning goal with 25 seconds left. The puck hit the inside of Cloutier's right leg and trickled in.

"He played really well," Pederson said. "He kept their team in there and shut the door. I felt as the game went on, he might have gotten tired and we could get some breaks."

"You always think what you could have done differently," Cloutier said. "The good thing is that I'm seeing the puck pretty well. I can't let that goal affect me. If I think about it, it will just make it worse."

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