Tampa Bay Lightning

TORTORELLA STILL TURNING TO BURKE TO HELP LIGHTNING

Saturday, 04.29.2006 / 12:00 AM / Bolts Report
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TORTORELLA STILL TURNING TO BURKE TO HELP LIGHTNING
OTTAWA - John Tortorella is still turning to Sean Burke to try to get the Tampa Bay Lightning out of trouble, even as he tempers his criticism of starting goalie John Grahame.

A day after the Lightning lost 5-2 to the Ottawa Senators and fell into a 3-1 hole in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series, Tampa Bay's fiery coach tried a soft-handed approach with his team.

"We've got to be loose, and we are loose," Tortorella said after the Lightning's practice for Game 5 on Saturday night. "We know if we don't win, we're done, so there's no sense in being uptight about it."

Tortorella was much different Friday after he let loose an expletive-filled postgame tirade following Thursday's night's loss that left the defending Stanley Cup champion facing an early exit this spring.

That's when Tortorella placed the blame for his team's problems with Grahame, who was taken out after two periods having allowed four goals on 17 shots.

It was only a slightly longer outing than his 29 minutes in Game 3, where he gave up five goals on 20 shots in an 8-4 loss that deflated the Lightning after it earned a split in Ottawa to open the series.

Burke will now be given the chance to try to spark Tampa Bay.

"I'm not upset with Johnny, because I think Johnny's trying like hell," Tortorella said. "But it is a series that you need a performance and I just don't think we got that (in Game 4).

"It isn't just going after Johnny Grahame, because I like (him), I really do. But it's winning or losing and it's performance and I felt we needed a better performance against this type of team (Thursday) night and we didn't get it. So Sean Burke's going to get a whack at it now."

Grahame had little to say about Tortorella's decision, but threw his support behind Burke.

"It's just the way he is, he's the coach, it's his prerogative," Grahame said. "Now it's what's best for the team. I think Burkie's going to come in and hopefully give us a spark and make some big saves."

Burke hasn't won a playoff game since 2002 and hasn't recorded more than one playoff victory in any season since 1988. But he said he's looking forward to the challenge of facing the Senators.

"They're a good team, they have a lot of weapons, but they're also beatable," Burke said. "We respect them, but they're not invincible.

"We all know what's at stake. We lose, the season's over."

The Lightning is 3-2 all-time in playoff games when facing elimination. The only other time in Tampa Bay's brief playoff history that it's been down 3-1 in a series - against the New Jersey Devils in the second round in 2003 - it bowed out in Game 5.

"I don't think all our offensive guys are working on all cylinders here," Tortorella said. "Ottawa has outclassed us in the opportune times.

"Of all the teams I've coached against, it's probably one of the most opportunistic teams I've ever seen."