Friday, November 7, 2008

Lawton Tells Bolts to Grow a Pair...They Still Get Punked by NY

By JC De La Torre

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton dressed down his hockey team before Thursday night's game against the New York Rangers, telling the team they have been trying to live on skill alone and not enough "want-to". Tampa Bay returned with its fiestiest game of the season, racking up a ridiculous 38 penalty minutes that included two fights, one involving goaltender Mike Smith. While the message was sent and the Bolts put together a performance with a little more testicular fortitude, the team still got whipped by the Rangers 5-2, the Bolts first regulation loss in five games.

Lawton told the St. Pete Times, "At that stage, the process is really simple for me, you ask people if they want to be here, if they want to be a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning."

Ryan Malone showed his desire to be with the Bolts, dropping the gloves with Rangers agitator Aaron Voros midway through the first period. The game was scoreless until Evgeny Artyukhin went off on a 2 minute minor for hooking at the 14:47 mark of the 1st, with 0:38 left on the power play, Ryan Callahan scored on a beautiful feed from Nikolai Zherdev. The score would hold up until 14:23 of the 2nd period, when shorthanded New York's Chris Drury intercepted a Paul Ranger pass and deposited it behind Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith to give New York a 2-0 lead. Martin St. Louis, who appears to finally be heating up for the Bolts, scored his 2nd goal in as many nights to cut the Rangers advange to 2-1 before 2nd intermission.

0:35 into the third, Chris Drury would get number two on the night on the power play, getting a nice feed from Scott Gomez, staking New York to a 3-1 edge. Ryan Malone's power play laser shot at 7:58 of the third sliced the advantage back to 1, but thirty seconds later, Marc Staal would get his first goal of the season (and only his 3rd in 96 games at the NHL level), on a slapper while the Bolts goalie Mike Smith was screened, returning the two goal lead and a 4-2 advantage.

Things deteriorated from there, as the Lightning had a parade of players to the sin bin, with 4:25 left in the game, Marek Malik was called for tripping Nigel Dawes and Mark Recchi earned two more for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the Rangers a full 2 minute 5-on-3 advantage. As the Lightning killed the first 5-3, the Bolts were nailed again, as Goalie Mike Smith slashed Aaron Voros, then dropped his goalie gloves and went after Voros, the two exchanged a few blows before being separated by linesmen. Gary Roberts joined the penalty parade with 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10 minute misconduct penalty. Voros got 2 for unsportsmanlike and 5 for fighting. Smith got 2 for slashing, 2 for unsportsmanlike conduct, and 5 for fighting. Basically, it all spelled out to yet another 5-on-3 advantage for the Rangers. So the Rangers basically spent the last 4:25 of the game with a two man advantage. Eventually, they would cash in as Drury completed his hat trick with an open net rebound off of a Dmitri Kalinin shot.

So the Lighting answered the call for more grit by GM Brian Lawton, but it contributed to an ugly finish against the superior New York Rangers club. While Tampa Bay showed more passion, the Bolts still seemed to lack that extra something when battling for loose pucks in the corners. You have to wonder if the grit that Lawton was speaking of was on display against the Rangers, who seemed to just muscle Tampa Bay defensemen off the puck for scoring chances.

"It wasn't a downer," Lawton told the St. Pete Times after the game, "I feel better about the game than I did Wednesday (the shootout loss to New Jersey)."

Tampa Bay fell to 4-4-4 12 points on the season, they remain in 3rd place in the Southeast Division, 4 points behind division leader Carolina.

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