TAMPA — While Lightning coach Guy Boucher said he was happy for his team after Wednesday's 3-0 victory over the Capitals, he said he was happiest for LW Simon Gagne, Tampa Bay's struggling star, who tallied just his fourth goal of the season and first in 12 games.
"I've felt so bad for him because I would say maybe about a week and a half ago you could see his game level go way up," Boucher said. "He's been getting so many scoring chances, and he's been driving so hard and paying the price, but it just wasn't amounting to points. That can be hard for a guy that usually gets some."
It was a huge goal, too, with 1:42 left in the second period on a breakaway that gave the Lightning a 3-0 lead.
Gagne, who hadn't even had a point in seven games, was smooth as he skated directly at G Semyon Varlamov and went high toward the top left corner over Varlamov's stick, a welcome flash of the skill that has made Gagne a two-time 40-goal scorer.
"I didn't want to try to do too much," Gagne said. "I just went for a shot. It definitely was a good feeling, especially helping the team win."
On a personal level, too.
"It has been a little bit," Gagne said of the frustration of not scoring. "But you don't want to put yourself in front of the team. If you score, it's good personally. It's going to help with the confidence. But at the end of the day you want the team to win."
POWER OUTAGE: Tampa Bay's power play was 0-for-5 and is on a 1 for 22 streak, but Boucher said he was happy with the way both units played. If not for Varlamov — who made five huge saves during a stretch of 3:39 of continuous power-play time in the second period, including 21 seconds of five-on-three — the power play would have converted. "Varlamov was outstanding," Boucher said. "We just got to keep on doing that, and I know we can get (some goals)."
CURE-ALL: An earplug apparently is the key to controlling F Mattias Ritola's Meniere's disease, which causes ringing in his right ear and dizziness.
Flying, particularly the pressure from takeoffs and landings, exacerbated the problem. The earplugs, which with a small top-to-bottom hole and that head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said are available at drugstores, control the pressure.
Ritola, 23, is deaf in his left ear because of childhood illnesses. With ringing in his right ear, he said he could barely hear at all.
"It's so nice," said Ritola, who also is on medication and estimated he hasn't had an attack since before Christmas. "I can go around the locker room and talk to people. Before that, I couldn't do it. I couldn't hear."
NEW STORM OWNER: Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is expected to be introduced today as the new owner of the Arena Football League's Storm. The Storm, which plays at the St. Pete Times Forum, has a marketing agreement with the Lightning. The sale will bring it into Vinik's company Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment.
CHARITY AUCTION: Tampa Bay will host a charity auction in conjunction with a watch party at 6 p.m. Saturday at Shots restaurant in the Times Forum. Fans also can participate by watching Ch. 44, which is televising the game with Carolina. Proceeds go to the pediatric intensive care unit at Tampa General Hospital.
ODDS AND ENDS: C Steven Stamkos is without a goal in six straight games, matching his longest drought of the season. … G Mike Smith (knee) is practicing but likely will be out another week, Boucher said. … W Sean Bergenheim played after missing two games with a respiratory illness. … Ritola and D Matt Smaby were scratched.