A painful night in every way

BY DAMIAN CRISTODERO

Times Staff Writer

SUNRISE – For the
Lightning, the best news from
Saturday night’s gruesome 6-0 loss to the Panthers was Vinny
Lecavalier apparently is not seriously hurt.

The captain, who left briefly late in the second period after a
shot from Florida defenseman Bryan McCabe slammed into the first
knuckle of his right hand, said an X-ray was negative.

And though Lecavalier admitted having trouble gripping his stick
in the third, he said he will not miss Monday’s game with the
Stars.

“It should be fine,” Lecavalier said. “It’s pretty sore, but we
have two days to take care of it, and hopefully, Monday it will
feel better.”

As for the rest of the game – which included four first-period
goals, and three in three minutes, 50 seconds – well, throw the
video in the trash.

“The type of game,” left wing Simon Gagne said, “you totally
want to forget about.”

Said coach Guy Boucher: “From the beginning to the end, just off
in every aspect – offense, defense, hitting, we weren’t first on
the puck, and when we did, we gave it away, guys falling
everywhere.

“It’s a tribute to (the Panthers). At the same time, by far our
worst, worst outing. The mix of the two was just a catastrophe, and
that’s what it was.”

With the Panthers scoring one fewer goal than it had in its
first three games combined.

The loss kept the
Lightning (3-1-0) from starting with
four wins for the first time since the 2003-04 Stanley Cup season.
And it continued Tampa Bay’s inexplicable ineptitude in South
Florida, where it is 13-26-4 with four ties.

There was solace that the team on its three-game road trip
earned emotional wins over the Canadiens and Flyers. And Gagne said
“maybe” fatigue was a factor against Florida.

Players certainly did not skate well or play with passion. A bad
turnover by defenseman Pavel Kubina led to a goal, as did an
unsuccessful foray into the offensive zone by defenseman Randy
Jones. Five players were minus-3.

Boucher changed line combinations. He put the second power-play
unit out first. He even lifted goalie Dan Ellis in the first period
with the score 3-0, even though the goalie was not at fault.

“I was trying to shake something. I didn’t shake much,” Boucher
said. “There are 82 games. There are going to be about 10 of those.
Let’s hope the next one is far away.”

At least Lecavalier’s knuckle was in one piece, though very red
and swollen.

“It’s a tough one to swallow after two big games against
Montreal and Philly,” he said while flexing his hand. “We have to
make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

<table width=”128″ border=”1″ cellspacing=”2″
cellpadding=”0″><tr><td>Panthers

</td><td>4

</td><td>0

</td><td>2

</td><td>6

</td></tr><tr><td>
Lightning

</td><td>0

</td><td>0

</td><td>0

</td><td>0

</td></tr></table>

First Period-1, Florida, Stillman 1 (McCabe, Dvorak), 1:50. 2,
Florida, Booth 1 (Matthias, Olesz), 14:25. 3, Florida, Reinprecht 1
(Bernier, Santorelli), 15:13. 4, Florida, Wideman 1 (Weiss,
McCabe), 18:15 (pp). Penalties-Hall, TB (interference), 17:33;
Downie, TB (interference), 19:00.

Second Period-None. Penalties-Frolik, Fla (tripping), 4:16;
Higgins, Fla (hooking), 10:40; Bergenheim, TB (slashing),
17:00.

Third Period-5, Florida, Booth 2 (Olesz, McCabe), 7:49. 6,
Florida, Olesz 2 (McCabe, Booth), 17:25. Penalties-Stamkos, TB
(holding), 13:28. Shots on Goal-Tampa Bay 9-11-9-29. Florida
19-7-12-38. Power-play opportunities-Tampa Bay 0 of 2; Florida 1 of
4. Goalies-Tampa Bay, Ellis 1-1-0 (15 shots-12 saves), Smith (15:13
first, 23-20). Florida, Vokoun 2-2-0 (29-29). A-17,040
(17,040).

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