Tampa Bay Lightning is struggling in shootouts

Marty St. Louis skates away after Sabres goalie Ryan Miller stopped him — and the Lightning’s five other shooters — during a shootout Saturday. Steven Stamkos’ suggestion: “Win it before we go to a shootout.”

DIRK SHADD | Times

Marty St. Louis skates away after Sabres goalie Ryan Miller stopped him — and the Lightning’s five other shooters — during a shootout Saturday. Steven Stamkos’ suggestion: “Win it before we go to a shootout.”

TAMPA

Left wing Ryan Malone had an interesting suggestion about how the Lightning could improve on shootouts.

Rally caps. Or rally helmets, as the case may be.

Players could turn their helmets around at the beginning of a shootout, Malone said.

"That would probably work," he added. "I don't know what else to say. The next time we just have to bear down a little more."

At 0-3 in shootouts this season and 3-13 including last season, Tampa Bay has to do something.

Worse, the Lightning lost Saturday's shootout to the Sabres 1-0 at the St. Pete Times Forum after six shooters failed to score on goaltender Ryan Miller.

For the season, shooters are 0-for-10 on shootout opportunities, with forwards Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Alex Tanguay and Steven Stamkos each 0-for-2 and Malone and defenseman Mattias Ohlund each 0-for-1.

"It's unacceptable," Stamkos said. "With the amount of skill we have, it's just one of those things. There's really no way to explain it. You have to score."

"It's probably now in a mental state," coach Rick Tocchet said. "It's probably now where guys are thinking way too much."

It is a costly shortcoming.

Lose a shootout and lose a point in the standings. Give the Lightning three more points this season and its total goes to 12 and its spot in the Southeast to second from third.

The problem hasn't only been with shooters. Goalie Mike Smith is 0-3 in shootouts this season and 2-10 including last season with just 18 saves on 38 shots.

And figure this out: He was 3-0 in shootouts, stopping 9 of 9 shots, for the Stars before Tampa Bay acquired him in February 2008 in the Brad Richards deal.

Smith did his job against the Sabres, though, stopping 5 of 6 shots.

"I finally made a couple of saves," Smith said. "It's been a while since I did that."

"He was very focused. He was solid," Tocchet said. "If he can stop five of every six shots, we're in good shape."

Unless the shooters don't get it going.

"How could it be? I really don't have an answer," Lecavalier said of the shootout scoring drought. "I don't know what to say. I wish I had an answer for you, but I really don't."

Tocchet recommended following the lead of former Penguins teammate Mario Lemieux, whom Tocchet called "the greatest guy I ever played with on breakaways."

"He went down and had three things in his head. If the goalie is back in the net, he's going to shoot. If he has his glove out, he was going top shelf. If the goalie was out … he'd backhand it. That's all he had.

"I know he's Mario Lemieux, but I think, personally, guys are going down there, 'I'm going backhand. I'm going to backhand,' and by the time they get there … So, I don't know how to teach that. Maybe you go with some other guys for a little bit to give them a breather."

Or try these suggestions:

"I think you've got to find a couple of moves that work and stick with them," Stamkos said.

Said Malone: "Maybe we should just practice it more."

Perhaps, but as Stamkos said, "It's such a different situation. You've got all the fans standing up. It's a pressure situation. You really can't simulate that in practice. But you practice as many moves as you can to have a certain amount of cards as to what moves you're going to pull."

Whatever the answer, the Lightning better find it soon.

"We have to figure a way out," Stamkos said. "Maybe win it before we go to a shootout."

If not, there are always rally helmets.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Shootout troubles

How Lightning shooters and goalies fared while the team has gone 3-13 in shootouts, including last season:

Shooters

Player G Att

Vinny Lecavalier 3 13

Jussi Jokinen 3 9*

Marty St. Louis 1 7

Steven Stamkos 1 7

Ryan Malone 1 5

Vinny Prospal 0 5*

Evgeny Artyukhin 1 3*

Alex Tanguay 0 2

Adam Hall 1 1*

Mattias Ohlund 0 1

Mark Recchi 0 1*

Radim Vrbata 0 1*

Totals 11 55

Goaltenders

Player Record Shots Goals Save Pct.

Mike Smith 2-10 38 20 .474

Karri Ramo 1-3 13 5 .615*

* No longer with team

Tampa Bay Lightning is struggling in shootouts 10/26/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 9:06am]

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