John Tortorella was fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday, 4 years after leading the team to its only Stanley Cup title. He had one season remaining on his contract.

The Lightning were 239-222-36-38 and made the playoffs four times in 6 1/2 seasons under Tortorella, who took over a perennial last-place team in January 2001 and helped transform it into a championship contender in 3 years.

"He did something I think is very, very difficult for anyone to do, but certainly difficult for a coach to do. That's change the culture," general manager Jay Feaster said. "This was a country club, a retirement home. It was a place players came to retire, they just forgot to tell us they were doing it. John came in and changed the culture, changed the way we do business, and the attitude. And in so doing, he raised expectations."

There already has been speculation about ESPN analyst and former Los Angeles Kings coach Barry Melrose replacing Tortorella. Melrose is a friend of Hollywood producer Oren Kroules, who is leading a group that is on the verge of buying the Lightning.


* The Pittsburgh Penguins' 4-3, triple-overtime win to avoid elimination against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night earned a 4.3 overnight rating and an 8 share on NBC. That's a 79 percent increase over last year's 2.4 for Game 5 between Anaheim and Ottawa, and the best Game 5 rating since the Carolina-Detroit matchup in 2002 drew a 4.5. *