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Lightning can't find the spark

Soft-spoken and mild-mannered were the labels put on Rick Paterson when he was named interim head coach of the Lightning.

But if Tampa Bay plays anything like its new leader roared after a 5-2 loss to Ottawa Wednesday night, perhaps Paterson's bid to tear the temporary tag from his title will win out.

"That's the most I've ever seen," defenseman David Shaw said after Paterson _ given the job, for now, when Terry Crisp was fired Sunday _ unleashed with a post-game tirade first on his team and later on the media.

"He was upset," Shaw said of Paterson, under scrutiny as a possible successor to Crisp. "We're all upset. He's a great coach, so far from what I've seen. If we can't play for this guy, we can't play for anyone."

On Wednesday, the Lightning didn't play for many.

Despite two goals by deposed captain Paul Ysebaert, the loss in front an all-time Ice Palace-low crowd of 10,776 has 2-9-2 Tampa Bay winless in nine straight games at 0-8-1 (matching the longest futility streak in franchise history) and still off to its worst start ever.

"It's us. It's everything," said Lightning wing Rob Zamuner, refusing to believe this loss should be pinned on any coach. "You can't just blame one person."

And that reality had Paterson hot, so much so that he shed his Clark Kent cover and did his best Crisp imitation after the Lightning fell to 0-2 under his direction.

"That effort on the whole team's part was unacceptable," Paterson said, his ire up and voice raised.

"All we can do is buckle down and get to work," added Paterson, particularly unhappy with the Lightning's lackadaisical play in its own zone. "And if some guys don't pick it up there's gonna be consequences."

One game into the interim era, the Lightning harped on improving two things in particular: its power play, and its third-period play.

Two games into the interim era, things have not changed much.

Thirty-four seconds into the final period Wednesday, Alexei Yashin took control of a failed clearing attempt and skated around Lightning defenseman Roman Hamrlik to beat goalie Daren Puppa from the slot.

That made it 3-1, a lead the Lightning _ which had not scored a third-period goal during the first eight games of its winless streak _ would not overcome.

Ysebaert answered with his second of the night _ and third in in two games since being stripped of his captaincy as part of the Sunday shakeup _ by converting a two-on-one pass from Jeff Toms.

But Andreas Dackell's rebound goal against a stand-still Lightning penalty-killing unit restored Ottawa's two-goal lead midway through the last period. Less than a minute later Shawn McEachern scored short-handed for his second goal of the game.

Tampa Bay's power play, meanwhile, was ranked 24th of 26 in the league.

And even after general manager Phil Esposito took to the ice for 40 minutes with the unit on Tuesday, the Lightning went 0-for-7. It is without a goal in its last 33 opportunities.

As for the final period, one in which it mustered just eight shots, Tampa Bay put the onus on itself to come from behind.

The Lightning had taken the early lead on Ysebaert's short-handed goal at 3:48 of the first period. But Ottawa answered with a even-strength goal from McEachern after Igor Ulanov lost the puck deep in his own zone midway through the second period. It took a 2-1 lead when Daniel Alfredsson redirected a Chris Phillips shot.

By the time Dackell and McEachern scored, an unhappy Ice Palace crowd that could be counted in dozens had this to ponder: The Lightning won't be back in the building for more than two weeks.

For Tampa Bay, which has a week to sort matters out before beginning a four-game Western road swing that begins Wednesday night in Anaheim, it is a time to reflect.

"If Rick Paterson's behind the bench or nobody's behind the bench," Toms said, wondering already what the Lightning will think about most, "we have to go out and give our best effort."

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