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Forget the shootout (well, not really), the Lightning has to learn "how to win" in regulation



I wasn't as worked up about that the Tampa Bay Lightning lost another shootout (0-3 this season, 3-13 including last season), or that its shooters are 0-for-10 this season in shootout attempts. If I were the players or coach Rick Tocchet, I would be more worked up that this team has trouble closing out a period much less a game.

Tampa Bay already this season has twice lost one-goal leads in the last minute of the third period. There was last night against the Sabres, when Drew Stafford scored with 16.1 seconds left in the third period, and during the Oct. 8 shootout loss to the Devils in which Travis Zajac scored with one second left in the third period to tie the game 3-3. Add Mike Grier's last-minute goal in the second period last night and you have a disturbing trend.

Against the Sabres, goaltender Mike Smith gets the blame on Stafford's goal for allowing a sharp-angle shot to go right through him. Defenseman Victor Hedman gets the blame for the Grier goal as he threw the puck right into Buffalo forechecker Tim Kennedy in the defensive zone.

Beyond that, you'd like to see the Lightning cash in on some more scoring chances. Marty St. Louis was stopped on a breakaway and Vinny Lecavalier had two chances in front of the net and did not get off a shot. Once he said he was too close to the net to shoot and tried to get around a defender and the puck ticked off the defender's skate. The other time, he just lost the puck off his stick.

"We had four in-alones and had one shot," Tocchet said Sunday. "We need goals in those situations. But you keep pounding along. As long as you keep getting those chances."

I liked Tocchet's quote from after the game

"This team is still learning how to win," he said. "That's a tough loss, but you learn from your mistakes and move on. That's what winners do. We have to learn how to win." 

Center Steven Stamkos had the solution to the shootout situation: "Maybe win it before we go to a shootout."

Other stuff from Sunday's practice: Defenseman Paul Ranger did not practice because of what the team called a personal matter. Tocchet said he spoke to Ranger twice on Saturday, when Ranger asked for what Tocchet said was a personal leave. "There's not much more I can say about that," Tocchet said. "He has to take care of a couple of things." ... Defenseman Andrej Meszaros practiced. He took an inadvertent stick blade in the left eye during the third period Saturday. Tocchet said Meszaros had a CT scan that was negative. Meszaros, with just a small cut outside his left eye, said he is fine. ... Left wing James Wright and defenseman Matt Walker did not practice because of "body maintenance." ... Wright said he has not been given any indication whether he will be sent back to juniors. Wright has played the nine games allowed before Tampa Bay must make that decision. "I feel good about the way I played," said Wright, who has a goal and an assist. "I think I left pretty much all of it out there. There's nothing more I can do, so it's obviously in their hands now. I'm just playing the waiting game." ... With Wright out, defenseman Matt Smaby (upper body) filled in on Vinny Lecavalier's line. ... Wing Alex Tanguay played with center Steven Stamkos and left wing Ryan Malone. Steve Downie was on the fourth line with center Zenon Konopka and Todd Fedoruk. Wing Stephane Veilleux was with center Jeff Halpern and Drew Miller. ... Hedman's giveaway led to Grier's goal, but Tocchet praised Hedman for not allowing it to affect the rest of his game. "The thing with Victor is he made a mistake and he's back up there and doesn't hide. I can't say enough about the kid." ... The unfortunate fallout of Grier's goal was that Halpern's line as on the ice for the first time when an even-strength goal was scored, though the line had nothing to do with how it was scored. ... Lecavalier said getting his first goal in 16 games (he broke a 15-game streak without a goal) was a "relief." ... Lecavalier said he would lobby for Wright to stay with the team. "He's bee playing great, a smart player. He's a quick learner. He listens when you talk."

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 12:15am]


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