Tampa Bay Lightning
Bolts Catch No Breaks
TAMPA - In every conceivable way, the Lightning let opportunity after opportunity slip away. Though Friday night's game at the Forum wound up as a lopsided 6-1 defeat to Philadelphia, the game didn't have a blowout feel to it as Tampa Bay dropped consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 1 and Jan. 3. On Friday, the Lightning had a pair of goals waved off, missed on a breakaway, failed to convert a penalty shot, fizzled on a two-man advantage for nearly two minutes when the game was tied and scored just once on 42 shots. By the time the bottom fell out, 20-year-old goaltender Riku Helenius made his NHL debut after Mike Smith was spared any more damage after allowing six goals on 30 shots."The score doesn't indicate, but, it's a loss," left wing Ryan Malone. An apparent goal by Mark Recchi with 37.1 seconds left in the first period was ruled good on the ice but overturned by video replay in the league office in Toronto, which declared that Recchi kicked the puck into the net as it squirted through bodies in the crease and fell to the ice before seemingly hitting Recchi's skate inadvertently. The 20-year veteran disagreed with the league's judgment. "I didn't kick it in, and if they had any common sense they would know it hit my feet so quick, I mean, that was a big difference in the game," Recchi said. "They made the wrong call, and if you look at it in fast motion there is no way I can react to that puck. It hits my shin pad, hits the top of my foot and goes in the net. It's a terrible call on their part." Steven Stamkos also had a goal waved off after it was ruled he batted the puck out of the air with a high stick that would have made it a 3-2 game with 12:56 left in the game. "I'm 100 percent sure it wasn't a high stick," Stamkos said. "Sometimes you see guys aren't sure, they look back at the referee to see if it's a goal, but I was sure. Maybe I'm wrong, but I know where it hit on my stick. I didn't hit the puck initially in the air, I hit it on the way down. ... It's a tough one to swallow." Tampa Bay had chances to not let the disallowed goals factor into the outcome, particularly on a lengthy two-man advantage early in the second period, but the Lightning registered only two shots on goal during the sequence. Less than five minutes later, defenseman Randy Jones scored a power-play goal for Philadelphia. Marty St. Louis also had a breakaway opportunity, which resulted in a penalty-shot attempt, but Antero Niittymaki, who made 41 saves, got a piece of St. Louis' free shot, which came two minutes before Stamkos' goal was waved off. "We obviously got a few breaks tonight, a couple of disallowed goals," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. "It's not often you see your team get two breaks like that."
Reporter Erik Erlendsson can be reached at (813) 259-7835.