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Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Brett Connolly scores first NHL goal

RALEIGH, N.C. — Brett Connolly said he always will remember his first NHL goal, but it would have been better in a victory.

"Absolutely," the Lightning rookie said after Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes. "You always want to win."

The goal, scored from the side of the net with 5:44 left in the third period, made the score 3-2. It was a nice addition to a game in which Connolly needed to re-establish himself after being benched for most of the third period of Saturday's 1-0 win over the Jets after two turnovers.

"I want to be a guy who is reliable the last few minutes of the game," Connolly, 19, said before facing Carolina. "I have to show them they can put me on the ice at any time. I'm looking forward to proving that."

While coach Guy Boucher said Connolly played like his teammates against the Hurricanes — "One goal was good but we needed more before (the third period) just like we needed more from everybody else" — he said before the game the right wing's misstep Saturday seemed a blip in his development.

"He's been reliable 98 percent of the time," Boucher said. "That two percent is experience and it's normal."

"I want to be a complete player," Connolly said. "To do that I have to be good in the defensive zone."

MALONE OKAY: LW Ryan Malone played after what he said was Monday's negative MRI exam on an upper-body injury.

"They were just looking at an injury that is okay," said Malone, who was hurt Saturday but didn't leave the game.

He played 16:05 against the Hurricanes and had an assist.

RITOLA IN: After being scratched in five straight games, RW Mattias Ritola played with what he said was little worry he lost an edge sitting on the sideline since Oct. 17.

"I've been working hard," he said. "I feel like I'm still into it, so no worries."

Ritola, who had two shots in 8:47 of ice time, said, "I feel I can play in this league," but acknowledged, "I have to figure some things out."

He said staying calm in games, making the right decisions and consistency are "what I'm working on every day."

PYATT OUT: Despite earning praise from Boucher and teaming with C Nate Thompson and RW Adam Hall on an effective fourth line, Tom Pyatt was scratched so Ritola could play.

"It's not because Pyatt is not playing well," Boucher said. "It's because I don't want to lose (Ritola)."

Chalk it up to another consequence of carrying 14 forwards with two being scratched per game.

"It's tough with a lot of extra guys but that's the way it is right now," Pyatt said.

STILL WAITING: Boucher has a similar situation with D Bruno Gervais, who was scratched for the eighth straight game.

"Very soon," Boucher said about when Gervais will play.

ODDS AND ENDS: C Steven Stamkos' six-game points streak ended. … The Lightning's winning streak at Caroline ended at three. … Jeff Skinner has six goals and nine points in eight career games against Tampa Bay. … The Lightning's penalty-kill streak ended at 15.

View Damian Cristodero's blog at blogs/tampabay.com/lightning.

Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Brett Connolly scores first NHL goal 11/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 12:02am]

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