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Limping home: Canucks crush Lightning 5-2

A "For Sale" sign already is posted on the franchise's front lawn. And now the real-estate agent might consider adding a new notice to the Lightning's prospectus: Players for Rent.

Need a future Hall of Famer who has 581 goals and deserves to play for a bona fide Stanley Cup contender? How about a career backup goalie who can pack bags with the best of the them? Or perhaps a penalty-killing plugger with more one-liners than Letterman to lighten your drive through the post-season?

After all, based on the way Tampa Bay looked in a 5-2 loss to Vancouver on Saturday afternoon, the Lightning may not be needing quality veterans like Dino Ciccarelli, Rick Tabaracci or Shawn Burr in the near future.

And with the way things have been going lately _ four losses after five games of a six-game homestand _ Tampa Bay might be well-served, between now and the NHL's 3 p.m. Tuesday trading deadline, to get what it can for some of the few precious commodities it does have.

"Another brutal effort," said Lightning coach Terry Crisp, who like his players offered few answers. "I thought we used every possible way to shoot ourselves in the foot, but we seemed to come up with new ways."

Like spotting the Canucks a 2-0 lead on a pair of Brian Noonan goals, one when he converted a behind-the-net pass by Martin Gelinas midway through the opening period and the other on an odd-man rush after defenseman Roman Hamrlik fell while trying to keep the puck in the Lightning zone early in the second.

Like managing no shots on goal during the first 10 minutes of the middle period and none during the first 6{ of the third.

Like falling behind 5-0 before the third period was halfway done, after goals from Alexander Mogilny (on a breakaway against Tabaracci after a Cory Cross pass across the slot was tipped away), Mike Sillinger (off a pass from Gelinas) and Gelinas (on a backhanded rebound).

And like seven defensemen all out to lunch on the same afternoon.

"You're not gonna sugarcoat it," said Ciccarelli, who got his 581st career goal late in the third. Jason Wiemer added another meaningless goal after that.

"We just have to get tougher up in our heads _ it's a funny game that way," Burr said. "We have to get meaner mentally. We were just lax, and it's all of us. The bottom line is we stink right now, and we have to snap out it."

Things got so bad that when what was left of an Ice Palace crowd of 16,747 started to ride referee Dave Jackson with an apparent chant of "Jackson s----, Jackson s----," Burr thought he heard them saying something else: "I think the fans summed it up when there at the end when they were chanting "Tampa s----,' " he said. "They pay good money for their tickets, and I'd be chanting the same thing if I was up there."

The amazing thing after yet another "embarrassing" effort, Burr said, is that despite all its woes of late the Lightning _ with 13 games to go after tonight's homestand-ender against Toronto _ is still in the hunt for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

Tampa Bay remains one place out of the eighth and final position, but fellow playoff wannabes Washington and the New York Islanders also lost Saturday.

"We're not getting it done right now," Burr said, "and there's only one good thing: Everybody else is losing too, and we're all in the same position as we were a week ago."

Still, that is little consolation for a club that can't seem to decide whether it is one with reason to get better for now or later.

"We can't depend on other teams to lose," said Tabaracci, doused by a 49th shot _ in the form of a beer from a disgruntled fan _ after facing a team record 48 from the Canucks. "I'd rather be trying to make it in with some momentum."

The only question is from where he, and a maybe few others, will be arriving.

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