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Lightning loses touch

Penalty killing, a strength this season, fails in a 4-1 loss to Buffalo.

photo
[AP photo]
Tampa Bay goaltender Kevin Weekes is there to stuff a backhand shot by Buffalo's Curtis Brown. Weekes had 30 saves and lost.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 3, 2001


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Lightning coach John Tortorella figured the Sabres would come out smoking Friday night as they tried to snap a three-game losing streak.

He was right, but they ended fast as well.

Buffalo scored twice in the first period and twice in the third to earn a 4-1 victory at HSBC Arena.

It was Tampa Bay's third consecutive loss.

It also marked the end of a laudable Lightning streak at a very inopportune moment. Trailing 2-1, Tampa Bay was one second from killing the holding penalty Juha Ylonen received at the end of the second period. But Miroslav Satan fired a bullet past goaltender Kevin Weekes 1:59 into the third period.

The goal snapped the Lightning's streak of 25 consecutive penalty kills.

The Sabres went 2-for-5 on the power play -- Satan scored again in the third period -- after scoring on just one of their previous 27 chances.

Martin St. Louis continued to prop up the Tampa Bay offense, scoring a first-period power-play goal that gave him five goals and four assists in his past six games.

J.P. Dumont had a goal and an assist for Buffalo. Stu Barnes scored, and Marty Biron made 26 saves as Tampa Bay was outshot 34-27. The Sabres started in good form and at one point led 11-1 in shots on goal, though Tampa Bay rebounded to close to 14-9 by period's end.

Buffalo went ahead 1-0 on its first shot 2:16 into the period, a snap shot from the bottom of a faceoff circle by Dumont that got through the legs of Weekes, who made his first start since Oct. 13.

But the breakdown started long before that when Curtis Brown was allowed to swing around the Lightning net and get a cross-slot pass to Dumont, who had snuck behind the Tampa Bay defense and was by himself.

Pavel Kubina gave the Sabres another opportunity when his inexplicable drop pass inside the Lightning zone was picked off by Vyacheslav Kozlov, whose shot Weekes stopped with his stick.

The Sabres went ahead 2-0 at 12:57 when Barnes redirected a cross-crease pass from Dumont after the Lightning could not clear the puck.

Tampa Bay got a break when Vaclav Varada was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for drilling Grant Ledyard into the boards. The resulting cut above his left eye needed seven stitches.

St. Louis capitalized at 14:33 when he tipped in Ben Clymer's wrist shot from the boards. It was St. Louis' sixth goal and fourth on the power play.

But Tampa Bay lost 1:38 of the power play when Vinny Prospal was called for hooking trying to prevent a three-on-one breakout after Vinny Lecavalier's cross-ice pass just inside the Buffalo zone was picked off.

It was one of four giveaways by Lecavalier in the period.

The Lightning played a much better second period. It outshot the Sabres 12-11 and kept Buffalo's scoring chances to a minimum while forcing the issue in the Sabres zone.

Biron had to be alert to stop Brian Holzinger's redirect attempt off a crisp pass from Dave Andreychuk at 2:46. Ben Clymer found Lecavalier charging the slot at 5:52, but Lecavalier's tip try could not beat Biron.

Buffalo finally got something going at 7:12, when Maxim Afinogenov launched a quick snap shot from the bottom of a faceoff circle that Weekes stopped with a leg.

Thirty seconds later, former Lightning center Chris Gratton got the puck right in front of Weekes after a pass deflected off Brad Richards' skate. But Weekes was alert and got his body on the shot.

The Lightning short-circuited another of its own power plays when St. Louis was called for high-sticking with 44 seconds remaining on a man advantage. Tampa Bay applied good pressure to that point with Lecavalier passing to Andreychuk at the side of the net, though the sequence ended with Biron making another save.

TONIGHT: LIGHTNING AT PENGUINS

WHEN/WHERE: 7:30; Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh.

TV/RADIO: Sunshine; WDAE-AM 620.

THE LOWDOWN: The Penguins will be without C Mario Lemieux (hip surgery), LW Martin Straka (broken leg) and RW Alexei Kovalev (knee). How much have those players hurt Tampa Bay? Lemieux has eight goals, 20 assists in 12 games. Straka has 11 goals, 18 assists in 34 games, and Kovalev has 12 goals, 12 assists in 36 games. The game ends the second of Tampa Bay's 12 sets of games on back-to-back nights. Going into Friday night against the Sabres, the Lightning was 2-0 in back-to-back games. The Penguins' power play was last in the league at 8.8 percent (5-for-57). It was 27th at home at 8.6 percent (3-for-35). Pittsburgh's penalty kill was fifth in the league at 89.1 percent (57-for-64). Expect Nikolai Khabibulin in net for the Lightning. Johan Hedberg will play for Pittsburgh. Penguins C Toby Petersen led all rookies with 36 shots on goal. Lightning LW Dave Andreychuk has 22 goals, 28 assists in 52 games against Pittsburgh. The Penguins lead the series 20-10-4 and 12-3-2 at home.

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