1. Archive

Dominant defense deciding factor

Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.

At this point forget the championship, the Lightning would settle for a measly playoff spot. Maybe that's why the Lightning got a little defensive Tuesday night.

Tuesday night's five goals represented a feast for Lightning sticks. It was only the eighth time this season _ and just the third time since Christmas _ that the Lightning lit the red lamp five times in a game.

But after Tuesday's game, Lightning players took offense to questions about the offense. All conversation turned to the number of goals scored by the Ottawa Senators: zero.

"It's great to get that kind of scoring, but you don't go anywhere in this league unless you can shut other teams down," forward Dino Ciccarelli said. "So forget the goals we scored. Good defense is what will get this team in the playoffs."

Through the first 10 minutes, the Lightning allowed only one shot on goal. But three power plays, including a five-on-three advantage, allowed Ottawa to rip off 18 shots by the end of 20 minutes.

It was about that time coach Terry Crisp practiced the lecture he was going to give his team during the first intermission.

"But by the time I got to the (locker) room, it had already been addressed by the players," Crisp said. "They took it upon themselves. They knew they had to clamp down."

The Lightning held the Senators to four shots in the second period and six in the third.

"We talked about it before the game and said we had to take care of our end," captain Paul Ysebaert said. "We were a little too lax at the start, but then we committed ourselves to playing good team defense."

It's a commitment that goes back five games. Since allowing Vancouver 48 shots on goal on March 15, Tampa Bay has allowed 25, 25, 25, 22 and 28. And it has allowed less than 10 shots on goal in 11 of its last 15 periods.

"We started to see signs of it out on the (recent) road (trip)," Crisp said. "But tonight was the best I've seen this team play defensively in a while. And I'm talking about everyone: forwards and defense. That's as good as our forwards can play defensively.

"And that's the kind of effort we're going to need if we're going to make the playoffs."