TAMPA — The way Mandy Lee figures it, "The Penguins owe me a million dollars."
The Holiday resident, in section 109 of the St. Pete Times Forum Tuesday night, was the randomly chosen fan who would have won $1 million if Tampa Bay scored exactly five minutes into the second period.
Instead, Ruslan Fedotenko, a huge part of the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup run, scored … for Pittsburgh.
"I feel bad," Fedotenko said after the Penguins' wild 6-4 victory. "I wish they would give her half a million because a former Lightning player scored."
Fedotenko could afford to be in a charitable mood. The Penguins, on a 16-3-3 run, clinched a playoff spot, and Tampa Bay (24-38-18) dropped its sixth straight and 10th in its past 11.
His tally sparked a three-goal second period that included two in 64 seconds by Sidney Crosby; one on a five-on-three, the next on the subsequent five-on-four.
He also seemed to get away with interfering with goaltender Karri Ramo on Petr Sykora's goal with 8:17 left in the third that made the score 5-3; an important goal as Tampa Bay scored four times in the period to wipe out a 4-0 deficit. Jeff Halpern scored twice, the second with 40.6 seconds left to make the score 5-4.
Jordan Staal's empty-netter with 13 seconds left ended the scoring but not the bad feelings.
"The ref blew it, plain and simple," coach Rick Tocchet said.
After Ramo stopped Fedotenko's breakaway, the wing seemed to put his stick across Ramo's torso as Sykora converted the rebound. Referee Wes McCauley, behind the net, called it a goal.
"I wasn't able to go for the puck or do anything," Ramo said. "For me, it's a pretty clear call."
"Did the goal stand?" Fedotenko said. "Then there's nothing to talk about."
Because there was no question the puck was in the net, the play was not reviewable. Tocchet didn't even talk to McCauley as referee Dean Morton went to the bench instead.
"You want to give those guys the benefit of the doubt," Tocchet said, "but it just seems that one ref … it seems every close call goes against us. I'm not saying he's against us. We battled so hard. … We just need a fighting chance there."
Actually, the Lightning needed to convert on 2:58 of five-on-three. Instead it went 0-for-7 on the power play. It also lost left wing Ryan Malone in the second period with a broken right hand that will keep him out of the season's final two games.
Marty St. Louis scored his 30th goal, the fifth time he has done that in his career.
"We really battled," he said.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com
First—None. Penalties—Sykora, Pit (slashing), 8:49; Gill, Pit (delay of game), 9:45.
Second—1, Pittsburgh, Fedotenko 16 (Staal, Kennedy), 5:00. 2, Pittsburgh, Crosby 31 (Malkin, Kunitz), 10:08 (pp). 3, Pittsburgh, Crosby 32 (Kunitz, Malkin), 11:12 (pp). Penalties—Szczechura, TB (delay of game), 1:25; Halpern, TB (hooking), 1:55; Kunitz, Pit (holding), 7:02; Stamkos, TB (holding), 8:23; Krajicek, TB (hooking), 9:32; Gonchar, Pit (roughing), 18:20; Gill, Pit (delay of game), 18:26.
Third—4, Pittsburgh, Cooke 12 (Staal, Letang), 1:08. 5, Tampa Bay, Halpern 6 (Szczechura), 4:31 (sh). 6, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 30 (Stamkos, Krajicek), 8:59. 7, Tampa Bay, Szczechura 4, 9:43. 8, Pittsburgh, Sykora 25 (Fedotenko), 11:43. 9, Tampa Bay, Halpern 7 (Karsums, Bochenski), 19:19. 10, Pittsburgh, Staal 22, 19:47 (en). Penalties—Godard, Pit, major (fighting), 4:05; Koci, TB, minor-major-misconduct (roughing, fighting), 4:05; Talbot, Pit (hooking), 12:05; Guerin, Pit, major (fighting), 16:05; Artyukhin, TB, major (fighting), 16:05; Cooke, Pit (interference), 16:40. Shots—Pittsburgh 5-18-8—31. Tampa Bay 6-10-21—37. Power plays—Pittsburgh 2 of 5; Tampa Bay 0 of 7. Goalies—Pittsburgh, Fleury 34-18-7 (37 shots-33 saves). Tampa Bay, Ramo 4-9-7 (30-25). A—19,538 (19,758). T—2:23. Referees—Wes McCauley, Dean Morton. Linesmen—Mark Pare, Pierre Racicot.