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Tampa Bay Lightning looks for ways to snap shootout slump

Steven Stamkos has his shot blocked by Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun during a Lightning shootout loss last month.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Steven Stamkos has his shot blocked by Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun during a Lightning shootout loss last month.

Victor Hedman said he would love to get into an NHL shootout, and the Lightning defenseman just might get his chance.

Defensemen aren't expected to be super scorers, so perhaps they don't feel as much pressure, coach Guy Boucher said.

It's as good a theory as any as Tampa Bay tries to find some way, any way, out of a three-season shootout slump that shows no signs of weakening.

"It's like a dark cloud," wing Marty St. Louis said. "You can't shake it."

Since the 2008-09 season, the Lightning is 7-19 in shootouts: 0-2 this season, 4-7 last season and 3-10 in 2008-09. Even for those who hate the game-ending gimmick, and count Boucher as one, leaving so many points on the table has to be disconcerting.

Consider the Lightning last season missed the playoffs by eight points and lost seven points in shootouts.

The Flyers last season were 4-3 in shootouts and won their final regular-season game (in a shootout) to reach the postseason.

For Tampa Bay, blame falls squarely on the shooters.

On a team with skill players such as Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier, it has converted only 17 of 87 shots since 2008 — 19.1 percent, compared with the league's 32.6 percent.

The Lightning is 0-for-6 this season, including three misses in Friday night's loss to the Oilers.

Stamkos, who in juniors once scored in a shootout with a behind-the-back forehand, is so discombobulated he simply tried to get a slap shot past Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.

"Obviously," said Stamkos, 4-for-16 in NHL shootouts, "we have to find a way to win games in overtime or prevent them from getting to overtime."

So, how do you explain it?

"It's a specific talent," Boucher said. "Stammer has a shooting talent. Marty St. Louis isn't a shootout guy. Talk all you want about talent, they don't have that talent. I'm building a house. I'm great at sawing something. I'm horrible at nailing something."

Left wing Simon Gagne, 5-for-19 in shootouts from 2005 to 2010 for the Flyers, said players, generally, don't work on the skill.

"You put so much focus on the five-on-five game, you don't think too much about it," he said. "You're working on game situations."

"And the less success you have, the harder it gets," St. Louis said. "You think about it and it's like, 'Here you go again,' that kind of feeling. On my own, personally, I'm fighting it in shootouts. If I go out there, I have to be better."

So does everyone on Tampa Bay, which leads us back to Hedman, a great skater with good hands who claimed he converted more than 50 percent of shootout tries in his native Sweden.

Hedman said he even tried to catch the eye of Boucher on the bench before the shootout in Edmonton: "I wanted him to know I wanted to go out there."

Boucher said he will devote more practice time to shootouts but might send out whoever is playing well in a given game, including defensemen.

"It's just the D doesn't feel as much pressure because they don't usually go," Boucher said. "If they miss, whoop-de-do."

It would be business as usual for the Lightning.

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

Shots in the dark

Lightning players in shootouts since 2008-09. The team is 7-19 in shootouts in that stretch:

PlayerGoalsShots

Vinny Lecavalier 4 19

Steven Stamkos 4 16

Jussi Jokinen 3 9

Marty St. Louis 1 9

Ryan Malone 1 5

Vinny Prospal 0 5

Alex Tanguay 0 4

Evgeny Artyukhin 1 3

Jeff Halpern 1 3

Teddy Purcell 1 3

Adam Hall 1 1

0-1: Sean Bergenheim, Brandon Bochensky, Steve Downie, Kurtis Foster, Andre Meszaros, Mattias Ohlund, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Mark Recchi, Stephane Veilleux, Radim Vrbata

Tampa Bay Lightning looks for ways to snap shootout slump 12/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, December 13, 2010 9:11pm]
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