Sunday, December 7, 2008

Same Old Story - Bolts Close But Not Close Enough...

By JC De La Torre

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been involved in a league high 20 1-goal games. Guess how many of those they have won? That number would be four. Tampa Bay is 4-16 in one goal games (including OT and shootout losses) and that folks is why they've lost seven straight and only have six wins total on the season. It continued again at home against the Buffalo Sabres in a 4-3 loss. During their skid, four of the losses have been by one goal, two others were by two goals, with the final goal coming on an empty netter. Basically folks, this hockey team does not know how to win close games.

Drew Stafford and Martin St. Louis exchanged goals in a surprisingly chippy first period. Twice the gloves were dropped in the first with Tampa Bay's Radek Smolenak battling Buffalo's Paul Gaustad and was followed by the fiery one, Steve Downie, taking on Buffalo's Adam Mair (Mair dominated that one).

Downie vs. Mair Video Courtesy of
The 2nd Period was a wild one with pucks bouncing in from all different directions. Buffalo's Thomas Vanek broke the tie at the 9:46 mark of the second period with a goal that went off a Lightning defenseman and into the net. Second later, Lightning Defenseman Paul Ranger answered on a nice feed from Vincent Lecavalier to make it 2 all. At the 14:41 mark of the second, Jochen Hecht deflected in his third goal of the season to give Buffalo a 3-2 advantage. Again, the resilient Lightning responded when Buffalo goalier Ryan Miller lost track of the puck during a scrum in front of the net, the Bolts Vaclav Prospal found it and had the shot riccohet off the staff of a Buffalo defender, then the back of Miller and into the net. As the period closed, Lightning captain and Superstar Vincent Lecavalier showed his grit, taking on Jochen Hecht for the third fight of the night. Hecht would connect on a nasty shot to the knows that momentarily hurt Lecavalier, he would return.

Lecavalier vs. Hecht Video Courtesy of

Midway through the third period, Derek Roy slipped a shot past a screened Mike Smith to give the Sabres back the lead for good. The Lightning had a few chances to tie in the final minutes, including six shots on their final power play, but they couldn't get the equalizer past Smith and Buffalo held on for the win.

The skid continues for the Bolts as they fall to 6-12-8 on the season, last in the SE Division. While at this point even uttering the word playoffs brings to mind the image of Jim Mora's famous rant, amazingly, Tampa Bay is only 7 points out of a playoff spot. If the Lightning could just learn how to win close games, they could quickly go on a run and get right back in this thing. First things first, they gotta get win number one and now they'll have to do it on the road as they head out for a five game tour of the northeast division.

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