Monday, November 24, 2008

New Threads, Same Old Garbage On the Ice for Bolts

By JC De La Torre

You can take the jersey off the team, but you can't take the team out of the jersey. With apologies to those god-awful NHL Network commercials, the Tampa Bay Lightning introduced their spiffy new alternate jersey Sunday evening but saw yet another lackluster effort in a 7-3 embarrassment against the New Jersey Devils. The Lightning were beaten in every phase of the game as New Jersey showed Tampa Bay the gulf between playoff contender and sub par team.

In the Bolts defense, they were a little shorthanded in this game. Stellar goalie Mike Smith was out of this one with a "nagging" lower body injury, defenseman Lukas Krajicek was out with a body injury and forwards Chris Gratton and Gary Roberts were placed on the 7 day injured reserve list, creating room for Goalie Karri Ramo and defenseman Jamie Heward to be called up from Norfolk.

Still, the Lightning maintained their m.o. of slow starts, getting outshot 15-6 while Mike Rupp and Zach Parise scored to make it 2-0 after one. As typical for the Bolts, Tampa Bay came out fighting in the second period, but goaltender Olaf Kolzig did not, as he gave up another three goals, two to Danais Zubrus, to begin the second period and allow the Devils to take an insurmountable 5-0 lead. Kolzig would be lifted for Karri Ramo after giving up 5 goals on 28 shots. To Tampa Bay's credit, they didn't quit. The Lightning scored three goals in less than three minutes in the final five minutes of the second period. Vrbata and St. Louis scored within less than a minute of each other, then Ryan Malone was taken down on a breakaway and scored on the ensuing penalty shot to close the gap to 5-3.

The Devils would reestablish their dominance in the third as at the 7:12 mark Danais Zubrus would put the game out of reach with a breakaway goal to complete a hat trick. Zubrus would add another midway through the third, giving him a team record tying four goals for the contest.

In the aftermath, the Lightning coaches and players admitted that this performance was a setback in the progression of the team.

"That's a couple of steps back," coach Rick Tocchet told the St. Petersburg Times, "(Due to the lack of hustle) The trainers won't be passing out ice bags to the players. It was a pretty bad effort."

Martin St. Louis was even more succinct, telling the Times, ""We took a huge step back. This is nowhere near the effort we need, the desperation. We were second on the puck all night long, weren't supporting each other. … It's just really disappointing when you take some great strides forward and then you take a dump like that."

The Lightning fall to 6-8-6 (18 pts) on the season, 3rd in the Southeast Division and remain 4 points out of a playoffs spot in the Eastern Conference.

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