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Tampa Bay gets a 2-2 tie on the strength of its goaltender and former Toronto forwards Mike Johnson, Todd Warriner and Fredrik Modin.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 18, 2000
TORONTO -- Is this the same Lightning team we were watching just two weeks ago? The one that was at the bottom of the NHL?
It's the same players, all right, but boy are the results different.
Tampa Bay earned a hard-fought and gratifying 2-2 tie against the Maple Leafs on Friday night before 19,145 at Air Canada Centre.
The Lightning is 4-1-1 in its past six games and has a more-than-respectable three points on this three-game road trip that ends Monday night at Dallas.
"You couldn't ask for any more," coach Steve Ludzik said. "Unbelievable, a gutsy effort. I can't say I've been more proud of any team I've ever coached."
"We should be feeling really nice," goaltender Kevin Weekes said. "Nobody did this for us. We did this for ourselves."
Weekes was, as Ludzik said, "a house," making 34 saves and raising his record to 6-6-1. For the second straight game he got help from Pavel Kubina, who slid in front of the goal and stopped Steve Thomas' shot from in close with 2:22 left.
Then there was the play of left wings Todd Warriner and Fredrik Modin and right wing Mike Johnson, all of whom Toronto traded to the Lightning last season.
Johnson scored Tampa Bay's first goal off a hustling play by Modin to tie the score at 1 in the second period. Warriner tied the score again 7:53 into the third off a deflection of Johnson's shot from the slot.
"Truthfully, I don't know if I even got it," Warriner said. "Maybe it hit the defense. I didn't feel it hit me. If I didn't get it, then Mike did. But it's always nice to come back here and play well."
The penalty kill was solid, thwarting six short-handed situations, including a questionable high-sticking call on Petr Svoboda at 17:12 of the third.
The Lightning, 14-for-14 on the penalty kill in its past two games, had other challenges to overcome. The team was outshot 36-21, but it was much better at getting the puck out of its zone. That took some pressure off Weekes, who made his 11th consecutive start.
But the pressure mounted after a pair of controversial calls by referee Blaine Angus.
In the first period, Angus failed to call Toronto's Jonas Hoglund for pummeling defenseman Cory Sarich into the boards from behind. With Sarich on the ground behind the Lightning net, Hoglund got the puck and fed Mats Sundin who fed Thomas, who beat Weekes for a 1-0 lead.
"I don't understand it," Ludzik said. "He's cross-checked from behind. He's down on the ice. He could have gotten hurt."
The coach said the Lightning likely will send a video of the incident to the NHL.
Angus, according to Sarich, did not call a penalty because the defenseman turned just as Hoglund was about to strike, nullifying a penalty.
"I felt a stick in my back and the next thing I knew my lips hit the glass," Sarich said.
Later in the period, Angus waived off Kubina's power-play goal because he said Johnson fell over goaltender Glenn Healy as the puck went into the net.
"The defense tried to clear me out and pushed me in there," Johnson said. "I'm not going to fall over him. I'm not much good lying on the ice."
"I thought that was the turning point," Ludzik said. "We saw that and we said, "Forget about it. Let's keep on fighting.' "
Modin did just that, beating Thomas to the puck along the boards, picking up his own rebound and passing to Vinny Lecavalier, who went to Johnson in front of the net. He scored his sixth of the season for a 1-1 tie at 11:06 of the second.
Toronto went ahead 2-1 on Hoglund's goal at 4:34 of the third. But Warriner's mystery goal, his third of the season, got the Lightning even.
"A hell of an effort," Svoboda said, "but we have to take one at a time."
UP NEXT: At Dallas, 8:30 p.m. Monday, Lightning Hockey Network.