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Tampa Bay Lightning loses season opener to Atlanta Thrashers 6-3

ATLANTA — Lightning goaltender Mike Smith knows coach Rick Tocchet's edict to keep emotions in check.

Win or lose, good game or bad, the coach said, "We have to stay on an even keel."

Still, there was Smith after Saturday night's season-opening 6-3 loss to the Thrashers at Philips Arena, talking about "a hard loss to swallow" and bemoaning his play.

"The bounces went their way," Smith said. "But the bottom line is, bounces or not, you've got to find a way to make some saves. You make a couple saves here and there, and it's a different game."

Speaking of different, just six days after dominating the Thrashers in its preseason finale, Tampa Bay was too loose defensively and allowed Atlanta too much speed through the neutral zone, especially Ilya Kovalchuk, who had two goals and three points.

And, man, did some bounces go the wrong way.

Defenseman Paul Ranger inadvertently shot the puck into his own net for Atlanta's first goal after Kovalchuk's backhand rebounded into the slot after a Smith save.

Defenseman Mattias Ohlund, trying to clear the puck away from Zach Bogosian, pushed it onto Bogosian's stick, and Bogosian pushed it through Smith's legs.

Even good plays blew up. Smith's smart poke check of Evander Kane sent the puck to uncovered Rich Peverley, who scored to make it 4-0 with 8:18 left in the second period.

"There was some strange stuff out there," center Jeff Halpern said. "But weird plays can happen when you give them so many chances."

Tampa Bay had chances, too, outshooting Atlanta 39-28 to give goalie Ondrej Pavelec a workout.

But as Halpern said, "We don't want to trade chances with anyone. It's just not how you win when you give up chance after chance."

Tampa Bay made a game of it as Marty St. Louis scored twice late in the second period and Andrej Meszaros 2:11 into the third to make it 4-3.

But Peverley scored on the power play to restore the two-goal lead with 9:08 remaining and Ranger in the penalty box for hooking.

"Range has a bad penalty you can't take in that situation," Tocchet said.

What the coach wanted his players to take postgame was a breath.

"We can't let this first game dictate how our season will go," St. Louis said. "We did a lot of good things. … We just have to correct the negative."

"It's a long year," Smith said. "Try to get over it quickly."

Thrashers 2 2 2 6
Lightning 0 2 1 3

First Period1, Atlanta, Kovalchuk 1 (Little, Kubina), 8:20. 2, Atlanta, Salmela 1 (Boulton, Thorburn), 11:23. PenaltiesTanguay, TB (high-sticking), 1:12; Meszaros, TB (holding), 15:14; Afinogenov, Atl (holding), 15:14; Foster, TB (tripping), 18:54.

Second Period3, Atlanta, Bogosian 1 (Peverley, Enstrom), 9:01. 4, Atlanta, Peverley 1 (Kane), 12:42. 5, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 1 (Hedman, Ohlund), 14:01. 6, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 2 (Stamkos, Tanguay), 19:15 (pp). PenaltiesFedoruk, TB (cross-checking), 7:44; Veilleux, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:44; Kovalchuk, Atl (slashing), 7:44; Popovic, Atl (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:44; Konopka, TB, major (fighting), 13:11; Thorburn, Atl, major (fighting), 13:11; Kubina, Atl (holding), 17:42; Malone, TB (cross-checking), 18:05; Kovalchuk, Atl (hooking), 18:31.

Third Period7, Tampa Bay, Meszaros 1 (Walker, Lecavalier), 2:11. 8, Atlanta, Peverley 2 (Kovalchuk, Afinogenov), 11:52 (pp). 9, Atlanta, Kovalchuk 2 (Little, Enstrom), 13:15. PenaltiesFedoruk, TB, major (fighting), 4:52; Boulton, Atl, major (fighting), 4:52; Salmela, Atl (roughing), 5:24; Ranger, TB (hooking), 10:06; Veilleux, TB, misconduct, 13:47; Konopka, TB (roughing), 13:47; White, Atl (roughing), 13:47. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 12-13-14—39. Atlanta 8-10-10—28. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 1 of 3; Atlanta 1 of 2. GoaliesTampa Bay, Smith 0-1-0 (28 shots-22 saves). Atlanta, Pavelec 1-0-0 (39-36).

Thrashers 6

Lightning 3

Tampa Bay Lightning loses season opener to Atlanta Thrashers 6-3 10/03/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 4, 2009 9:39am]
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