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Non-progressive win

Published Aug. 31, 2005

There was plenty for the Lightning to feel good about Wednesday, not the least of which was another victory. But try telling that to coach John Tortorella.

He looks for progress.

And he didn't see much.

Though it finished with a flourish, the Lightning got away with a spotty effort in a 4-2 victory against the Kings before an announced 17,138 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Tortorella was disappointed to see players lose battles and commit turnovers in the Lightning's zone _ sure signs of a mental lapse. So close to its goal of reaching the playoffs, now is not the time for Tampa Bay to falter.

"We're happy with the win and we did a lot of good things," Tortorella said. "But I've seen this team play better and we can't take a dip. At this time of year, we have to continue to build. You can't have a hiccup."

The Lightning squandered a 2-0 lead, but Ruslan Fedotenko scored the winner with 2:49 left, beating goaltender Jamie Storr from the right circle.

The Lightning also got goals from Cory Sarich, Vinny Prospal and Vinny Lecavalier, who added an empty-netter with 16 seconds left. Ben Clymer had two assists, Prospal and Lecavalier one each.

"I think we just sometimes lose momentum," Fedotenko said. "The puck bounces wrong. But that shows how strong we are right now. We just regroup and come back and win the game."

It is hard to complain.

The Lightning is 9-2-3 in its past 14 games, 7-1-1 in its past nine at home. The victory solidified Tampa Bay's hold on sixth place in the East and drew it to within one point of Southeast leader Washington, with a game in hand.

Fedotenko scored his team-high sixth winning goal of the season. Including the playoffs, 14 of his 49 career goals are winners.

"Any goal is exciting, but especially a game-winner," said Fedotenko, who has 15 goals this season. "I was going to hesitate and try to deke, but he opened the corner a little bit so I shot it."

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin made 26 saves to stretch his unbeaten streak to a career-long and franchise-record 10 games. During that stretch, he is 8-0-2 with a 1.38 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. He shared the Lightning record with Darren Puppa, who was 7-0-2 from Feb. 19 to March 13, 1996, the team's only playoff season.

And though a playoff berth seems likely this season, the Lightning is not beyond learning valuable lessons.

The Kings said goodbye to two of their top three scorers _ center Bryan Smolinski and defenseman Mathieu Schneider _ in the hours before Tuesday's trade deadline. It was a clear message that management has given up.

That, Tortorella sensed, made Los Angeles dangerous.

"We can't think any team is not going to battle us hard," he said. "You guys think I'm absolutely nuts talking about "every day, just worry about today.' That's all this team is able to handle _ each day.

"If we start looking ahead or by people, we are done. It creeps up on you and it can't happen. On the positive side, I think our room understands that."

After a scoreless first period, the Lightning jumped on the Kings for two goals in the second: Sarich's fourth and Prospal's 18th. But Alexander Frolov's goal at 13:49 was Los Angeles' first in 154:22, dating to Luc Robitaille's goal at 19:27 of the third period on Dec. 16, 2000. Tampa Bay shut out the Kings in two meetings last season.

Los Angeles applied heavy pressure in the third, and Ian Laperriere tied it 9:56.

"We started just kind of waiting, and they kept coming and coming and coming," Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We paid the price, giving up two goals. Then we turned it around and played our game and dominated the last 10 minutes. We won that's the key. But we just have to learn."