Lightning feeling the heat

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

The hockey club known as "the hunted" found a timely refuge in Toronto last night.

Feeling intense heat from 29 other teams trying to snatch their silver crown, the Tampa Bay Lightning received the traditional champions invite to the Hockey Hall of Fame, a reminder of what their sacrifices meant in The Lightning, fighting to stay above .500, gathered to watch Stanley Cup Odyssey, a 30-minute, high-definition film detailing the trophy's rich history climaxing with their 2004 win over the Calgary Flames. The entourage signed autographs for hundreds of fans under the Cup's shadow in the Great Hall and then went out for a team meal before facing the Maple Leafs in tonight's Hall of Fame game.

Since the puck dropped a month ago, coach John Tortorella senses the thunderbolt logo has become a target.

"We've never been the hunted," he said. "Let's face it, where we were before was getting the snot kicked out of us. (It's) a whole different world with people coming at you.

"The players can say, 'Yeah, we know it's coming' but you don't really know until we start going through it.

"One thing is that our team has matured. To handle some of the success without getting 10 feet tall and to handle some of the losing and adversity without going 10 feet under."

Ex-Leaf Dave Andreychuk, who had the league record of almost 1,600 regular-season games played without a Cup win, has found life on top to be a challenge, even from the lower echelon of the NHL.

"Teams are going to play really hard against us for a notch on their belt against the Cup champs," Andreychuk said. "We found that hard to get used to at the beginning (of the season), but we're playing better hockey."

After a sluggish start, Hart Trophy winner Martin St. Louis has 11 points in 14 games. He predicts the entire team eventually will catch a wave and go for a repeat.

"The raising of the Cup banner was closure," St. Louis said. "It's time to go after another one.


Videos

Photos