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Home is not sweet down the stretch

This was supposed to be the homestand that pushed Tampa Bay into the playoffs. Instead, the Lightning is 1-4 with only tonight's game against Toronto remaining.

And in the five games, the Lightning has totaled of eight goals _ half in one period in a 6-4 loss to Boston. Twice, the Lightning has been shut out and was six minutes from being shut out Saturday.

"We're not even getting good chances, let alone good shots," defenseman Rudy Poeschek said. "We had some power plays early and maybe if we could've gotten one there, it could have changed the momentum. Who knows? But we have to do something to generate more offense and get guys believing we can score."

But the Lightning, including Poeschek, wasn't blaming its offense for the loss, but its defense. It tied a franchise record by allowing 48 shots on goal.

"My major concern was our defensive corps as a whole," coach Terry Crisp said. "For some reason, they didn't cope with the attack that Vancouver was throwing at us. It was one of those nights when the whole defense corps had a rough night.

Captain Paul Ysebaert said, "When you give up 48 shots you're not going to win too many games. Take care of your own end first and you'll get chances at the other end. It goes hand-in-hand."

BOO: As if the team didn't have enough problems with Vancouver, the hometown fans turned on the team midway through the second period.

"I don't blame the fans for booing, that was an embarrassing performance they watched," Shawn Burr said. "They have every right to boo after a performance like that. They pay good money to see good hockey and we didn't give that to them."

It got worse as the game went on. "Hey, they pay their money and that gives them the right to boo, cheer, yell, whatever," Ysebaert said. "As far as the booing goes, that's their right."

Things did turn ugly, however, near the end of the game. A fan threw a beer at goalie Rick Tabaracci and was ejected.

IN AND OUT: The Lightning lost a defenseman, but will get one back.

Drew Bannister suffered a right shoulder bruise and an MRI today will determine the extent of the injury. He will miss at least tonight's game, and could be out longer. But Jay Wells, who has missed the past 17 games with a knee injury, will be removed from the injured reserve list today and could play tonight.

Meantime, left wing Patrick Poulin, out the past four games with a knee injury, said he will skate with the team this morning.

"It's getting better and I'm shooting for playing on the road trip _ maybe by Vancouver (on March 22)," Poulin said.

ODDS AND ENDS: With his third-period goal, Dino Ciccarelli became the third player in team history to score 30 in a season. The others were Brian Bradley, who had 42 in 1992-93, and Alex Selivanov, who had 31 last season. The Ides of March are no good to the Lightning. Tampa Bay is 0-3 on March 15 and has been outscored 18-5. Alexander Mogilny helped Vancouver to a 5-0 lead, but he had praise for Tabaracci. "Both goalies played well," he said. "It would be tough for those guys to blame the goalie when he faces 50 (actually 48) shots."

_ TOM JONES

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