The Tampa Bay Lightning's quest for a playoff spot is not dead yet. But _ to borrow a phrase from Detroit's assistant general manager Doug MacLean _ "Dr. Kevorkian is lurking in the background."
Sunday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Lightning got an A for effort, outshooting the Flyers 37-21, including 16-3 in the final period. But it didn't get the two points needed for a victory.
The game was deadlocked at 1 after two periods. But in the third period, the Flyers scored on two of their three shots (newcomer Mark Lamb and leading-scorer Mark Recchi each had goals) and Tampa Bay failed to produce a goal on its 16 shots.
The result was a 3-1 loss before 21,849 at the ThunderDome. The Lightning is 12-19-4 at home, including games at its home-away-from-home, the Orlando Arena though only 11-16-3 at ThunderDome.
A victory would have put the Lightning three points behind the Flyers, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But now Tampa Bay is seven points behind Philadelphia with 16 games to play. And to make the picture bleaker, Florida and the New York Islanders, who also are battling for the final playoff berth, are ahead of Tampa Bay in the standings and each have four games in hand.
"This team is not going to die until the last game of the year," Lightning winger Adam Creighton said. "I still believe we can make the playoffs. We have 16 games left. That's 32 points. That's a lot of points. We were 22 points back at one point, now we're just seven."
Brian Bradley's goal at 9:16 of the first period gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead. It was just his fourth goal in his past 20 games.
"Sure I feel pressure, just like everybody else," Bradley said. "But I'm tired of talking about the goals and all that stuff. That's bull---- of the media. We're a team. I'm here to play hockey and they're just trying to stir the pot. Whatever happens. Who care who scores if we win the game?"
The Flyers had several good scoring chances in the first period, but goalie Daren Puppa made the key saves. His best was one for the highlight film: He was lying on his side and raised his right leg, almost as in an exercise video, to stop Rod Brind'Amour's shot from 3 feet.
Michael Renberg, the leading rookie scorer with 62 points, tied the game at 1 when he put in the rebound of Brind'Amour's shot on a four-on-four.
But Lamb, who was acquired late Saturday from the Ottawa Senators for Claude Boivin and Kirk Daubenspeck, scored the game-winner in his first game as a Flyer. He backhanded a shot from the slot past Puppa with Rudy Poeschek hanging on him at 2:20 of the final period.
"Mark Lamb is a nice acquisition for them," Lightning Coach Terry Crisp said.
Recchi scored an insurance goal, stealing Joe Reekie's dump-in and racing the entire length of the ice, finishing the play with a great wrist shot to beat Puppa on his stick side.
"This (scoring problem) is nothing new," Crisp said. "It's not suddenly a big revelation. The guys did their best. We just have to go to Hartford (on Wednesday) and see if we can make up some ground. . . . We can't afford to dwell on the past."