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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