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Extra fun on return home

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 16, 2003

MONTREAL -- How cool was Saturday for Lightning center Vinny Lecavalier and right wing Martin St. Louis?

Both grew up in Montreal's suburbs, and to play at the Bell Centre so late in the season as members of a first-place team was something to remember.

"It's great," said Lecavalier, who is from Ile Bizard. "It's always nice to come back to Montreal, but to come back in first place, it's just pride. We've always been in last position, so it wasn't as fun. But now, to come in as a winning team is pretty special."

"We've been here at this time in the past and we've either been fighting or out of it," said St. Louis, a native of Laval. "So to be where we are, and ahead of (the Canadiens) is great."

The Lightning has other area connections.

Defenseman Marc Bergevin, a trade-deadline acquisition, is from Montreal. Left wing Andre Roy grew up in Lafontaine, about 40 minutes north, and center Brad Richards played junior hockey in Rimouski and adopted Montreal as his home NHL city.

"For the guys coming back into the area where they have a lot of people coming to the game, to stand tall for a little bit, it's terrific," coach John Tortorella said. "As long as you don't cross that line and forget about what you have to do to stay there, that's the key."

St. Louis had it covered.

"There are 10 more games to play," he said. "Today we're in first place. Tomorrow it could be a different thing."

IT'S OVER WHEN IT'S OVER: Give Roy credit for showing restraint after his second-period fight with defenseman Michael Komisarek during Tampa Bay's 2-1 win. The punchout was relatively short and ended with the players on the ice.

Roy was suspended three games for shoving two officials after a Feb. 11 fight with the Islanders' Eric Goddard. This time, as Roy was being led to the penalty box, he signaled to the linesman by pushing both his palms downward that he would not cause trouble.

STAN'S THE MAN: Stan Neckar said he never expected to play 500 NHL games, but the defenseman reached the mark against the Canadiens.

"I was happy just to play in one game in the NHL," he said.

Neckar, 27, has found a niche as a steady defender who is not afraid to get his nose dirty, and he gets a regular turn on the penalty kill.

"He's learned how to battle," Tortorella said.

"Since I was little I always wanted to play hockey and in the NHL," Neckar said. "To play 500 games, it's even better. Hopefully, I'll get more."

SCRATCHES: Bergevin, defensemen Darren Rumble and Janne Laukkanen, and forwards Jimmie Olvestad and Chris Dingman. ... Former Lightning forward Gordie Dwyer was scratched for Montreal.

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