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Drew Miller puts the Tampa Bay Lightning's scoring problems into sharp focus

18

December

This is how it goes when things are going badly. The Lightning can't score. It has been shut out four times in 10 games. It makes sense, therefore, that a player on whom it gave up, should score not only the winner Thursday in the Red Wings' 3-0 victory, but do it in such a dramatic fashion.

In case you missed it, Miller, whom Tampa Bay lost to Detroit on waivers, scored after creating his own breakaway by plucking out of the air with his stick at the Lightning blue line Brian Rafalkski's pass from his defensive zone. Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith dove to try and poke check the puck, but Miller deked to the backhand and and scored while leaping over Smith.

Tampa Bay can only hope someone, anyone, could make a play. Not like that but anything to get the offense going. Yes, there have been plenty of defensive errors, and Todd Bertuzzi's goal that made it 2-0 had three. But as coach Rick Tocchet said, "A nice play. But those type of plays when you're scoring, you can overcome."

Instead, Tampa Bay couldn't take advantage of its chances. Steven Stamkos hit a post. Stephane Veilleux was stoned with 40 seconds left in the second period and the score 1-0. Marty St. Louis had zero shots and Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone had one each.

Someone asked me if this is how it's going to be. Is this what we're going to see all season from the Lightning. I know I've watched it for 33 games now and don't see things getting better, so I'd say a pattern has been established. If that happens, it is too bad for this team. In a conference that is so balanced, and in that I mean almost everyone is bunched up after you get past the top teams, the Lightning has a real shot at the playoffs. But only if they can start putting the puck in the net, something that wasn't supposed to be a problem.

And don't think the players aren't feeling the pressure.

"We're in the danger zone," right wing Marty St. Louis said.

"We're running out of time to win these games," defenseman Mattias Ohlund said.

But the team also has an opportunity to salvage what so far is a 0-3-1 road trip. Games with the Blues and islanders are very winnable. Do that and all of a sudden the road trip doesn't look so bad. Don't get at least three points and Mike Smith's words ring even louder.

Of the team's 1-8-2 slide, he said, "It's beyond embarrassing."

[Last modified: Sunday, January 17, 2010 12:15am]

    

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