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Eventually, Ludzik says no changes

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 10, 2000


BRANDON -- For a while Monday, it appeared as if the Lightning was in for a few changes.

Asked if he would shuffle lines or defensive pairings after Sunday night's meltdown against the Canucks, coach Steve Ludzik said, "Maybe."

Later in the day, though, he said he decided to keep things consistent.

"I know what kind of guys we have on this team," Ludzik said. "As a group we have tremendous pride. I know my guys are a lot better than that."

"If he doesn't want to make any changes, I totally understand," general manager Rick Dudley said. "We had a bad game. It doesn't mean you abandon everything you've been trying to do."

Ludzik said the team will watch a videotape of the game after today's practice at the Ice Sports Forum.

"The film doesn't lie," he said. "I don't think I'm going to have to say anything."

In case you missed it, Vancouver scored three goals in the final 2 minutes, 55 seconds, including Denis Pederson's short-handed goal with 25 seconds remaining, to gain a shocking 5-4 victory.

"It's up there," Lightning forward Ryan Johnson said of the disappointment. "It's something that, I'm speechless. I didn't sleep at all last night."

The Lightning led 4-2 despite being eventually outshot 41-16 and spending more than half the game in its defensive zone.

Vancouver made it 4-3 at 17:05 of the third period on what essentially was a broken play when a misfired shot went right to Mattias Ohlund, who beat goaltender Dan Cloutier.

Then came the real problems. Vancouver tied the score at 18:47 after center Vinny Lecavalier and defenseman Paul Mara lost battles in the defensive zone. That led to Daniel Sedin beating Mara in the slot and scoring off a pass from his brother, Henrik.

Mara was victimized on the final goal when he attempted an ill-advised cross-ice pass, which Pederson intercepted and converted. Ironically, Tampa Bay put two defensemen -- Mara and Pavel Kubina -- on the power play, instead of one, to prevent breakdowns.

"What's disappointing is that we panicked in that situation," Ludzik said. "That's stuff that we've gone over every single day."

Mara and Lecavalier had tough games. Both were minus-2 and on the ice for Vancouver's final two goals. Mara was on the ice for four Vancouver goals, including the last three.

JUMP START: It would be nice if Tampa Bay could get some jump off the opening faceoff. The team came out sluggishly against the Islanders in the season opener on Friday and then let Vancouver score twice in the first 1:38.

Yes, it's encouraging the team didn't pack it in, and the Lightning has gotten brilliant goaltending from Cloutier, but how long can it survive like that?

Johnson said part of the problem has been an inability to establish the forecheck, which pressures the defense and creates chances. Dudley said the solution is simply a matter of not hesitating and quickly moving the puck up ice.

Johnson said the game should be thought of in five-minute increments instead of a "big picture."

"You win a majority of those," he said, "and you're going to win some games."

Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, it lost five consecutive five-minute games Sunday during 22:55 of the second and third periods in which it got zero shots on goal.

THUMBS UP: What is working? Well, the penalty kill has thwarted 16 of 16 short-handed situations.

Part of that is Tampa Bay's strategy of forcing opponents away from the slot. Part of it is Cloutier's goaltending.

There also has been a greater emphasis on blocking shots. Tampa Bay has blocked 39, compared with eight for its opponents. Kubina and defenseman Bryan Muir had six each against the Canucks.

HIS NUMBER IS UP: Left wing Kyle Freadrich wanted to change jersey numbers, from 24 to 32. No reason, he said. It was just time for a change.

There was one problem. Tampa Bay has used all the extra-large jerseys that would fit the 6-foot-7, 250-pounder. So Freadrich is stuck with 24.

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