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Backup gets a victory

OILERS 2, LIGHTNING 1: Jussi Markkanen keeps Edmonton close, then a rally sinks Tampa Bay.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 15, 2001


EDMONTON -- After the Lightning defeated the Flames Wednesday, center Brad Richards said the dimension of the victory would depend on how Tampa Bay played in its next two games.

photo
[AP photo]
The Lightning’s Dave Andreychuk takes some heat from the Oilers' Tom Poti during first period action Friday in Edmonton.
"It won't be big unless we come up and do what we did here tonight," he said. "If we don't, it's nothing. Just wash it away."

Soap and water, please.

The Lightning allowed two third-period goals -- by Shawn Horcoff and Josh Green -- to fall 2-1 to the Oilers Friday night at Skyreach Centre.

Tampa Bay was outshot 35-23 and wasted some spectacular goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 33 saves.

"I don't think we can win a game (Wednesday) in Calgary and realize what position we put ourselves in and win," Richards said. "We left Khabibulin alone and hoped he would save everything."

"I don't think it's that," Khabibulin said when asked if he felt like he was left alone. "It's little things that turn into bigger and bigger things and all of a sudden it's in the net. Look at either (goal-scoring) play. A turnover (happens) or somebody leaves an area he's supposed to be; it makes it a little tougher to play."

Sheldon Keefe's first goal of the season gave the Lightning the second-period lead, but that was the only shot to beat goaltender Jussi Markkanen, who made 22 saves in his second career start.

Tampa Bay is 1-2-1 on a road trip that ends Monday against the Canadiens. Khabibulin is 8-4-2 in his past 14 starts and has allowed just 19 goals.

Horcoff's goal came 3:30 into the third period on a wrist shot to a top corner. He was left alone in front of the net by forward Zdeno Ciger and defenseman Cory Sarich and received a pass from Georges Laraque, who fought off a check from Vinny Lecavalier to make the play.

Of the goal, Ciger said he got caught on a line change and Sarich said he turned away from Horcoff in an attempt to steal the pass.

Green, who found himself alone in front of the net when defenseman Nolan Pratt got tangled with an Edmonton player and fell, scored at 12:25 with an assist from Horcoff.

"We're just not desperate enough to win a hockey game," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "It's too hard to keep our desperation and mental toughness. It's a crime and it's not our young guys. It has to stop."

The first period ended tied at 0. At 15:38, Khabibulin stopped Rem Murray's breakaway. The Lightning was on a power play but when Murray picked off a Ben Clymer pass at the Oilers' blue line, Murray was away cleanly. Khabibulin stood his ground and made the save with his right leg.

At 6:15 Khabibulin stopped a shot by Domenic Pittis, but the goalie's leg was behind the goal line. Oilers coach Craig MacTavish screamed, but the play was not reviewed.

That Khabibulin got any part of his body on the shot was astounding as he was run over by Edmonton's Marty Reasoner, who appeared to exaggerate the effect of a hit from Sarich.

Tampa Bay's Pavel Kubina and Lecavalier broke out two-on-one on a power play. Lecavalier was poised to shoot, but Kubina opted to unload a slap shot that bounced off Markkanen at 17:06. Lecavalier could not get a shot at the rebound.

The Lightning took a 1-0 lead at 13:57 of the second period on a pretty goal by Keefe, whose constant forward motion made the play happen.

Keefe was hit into the boards at the Oilers' blue line as he flipped a pass to Juha Ylonen. Keefe fought his way through the check and was in the right place at the right time to pick up the puck after Ylonen was checked off the play.

Keefe's wrister cleanly beat Markkanen.

Other than that, the period was a showcase for Khabibulin as Edmonton outshot Tampa Bay 18-9 to take a 28-14 advantage.

"It's not frustrating to face a lot of shots," Khabibulin said. "It's frustrating that we had a lead going into the third period and we couldn't hold it. In order to be successful, you have to hold leads. You should not lose games leading by one goal."

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