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Vinny Lecavalier's goal 2:29 into OT cuts the Lightning's deficit to 2-1.

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Vinny Lecavalier and Dan Boyle celebrate Lecavalier's goal 2:29 into overtime that gave the Lightning a 4-3 victory against the Capitals. The goal came during a two-man advantage.

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

WASHINGTON -- Vinny Lecavalier hesitated a bit when asked, but after a moment admitted, yes, the pressure was mounting.

The Lightning center had no goals and no assists in the first two games of the East quarterfinal against the Capitals, and that was simply unacceptable.

"Obviously, yes, because I hadn't produced," he said. "And I'm here to produce. (Tuesday), things happened."

What happened was Lecavalier scored his first two playoff goals, including the winner 2:29 into overtime during a controversial five-on-three power play as Tampa Bay earned a satisfying, and possibly season-saving, 4-3 victory against the Capitals at the MCI Center.

The victory cut Washington's advantage to two games to one and guaranteed a Game 5 at the St. Pete Times Forum on Friday. Quite a way to snap an 11-game losing streak in Washington.

"It feels really, really great," Lecavalier said. "We're right back in it, and that's the best feeling."

The feeling if Washington's Dainius Zubrus scored on a first-period penalty shot with Tampa Bay ahead 1-0 can only be imagined. But it is a moot point.

[Times photo: Dan McDuffie]
Robert Lang crunches Alexander Svitov into the boards during the first period. The Lightning held Lang to no points and one shot.
"They're back in the series," Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy said. "They're a young group, and they have life back in them. It's rare that a team has ever come back from three to nothing, and now it's two to one.

"They've got a lot of resiliency. They battled hard."

Lecavalier had plenty of help.

Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists. Vinny Prospal had a goal and an assist, giving the newly formed line seven points and each player a plus-3.

Give Prospal an assist, too, for pulling down Zubrus on a breakaway during a Lightning power play. Zubrus skipped the penalty shot off the top of the crossbar and over Nikolai Khabibulin's shoulder.

The Lightning showed the speed it lacked in the first two games, and it played well in its zone, clogging the slot, blocking shots and holding the Capitals to 19 shots, none in overtime.

The 17,279 screaming fans, especially those who covered the ice with garbage at game's end, might also credit Dennis LaRue. The referee called Washington's Jaromir Jagr for roughing up Pavel Kubina 1:18 into overtime and Ken Klee for elbowing Dave Andreychuk at 2:12 to create a two-man advantage for 1:06.

"I was very surprised to get a five-on-three," Lecavalier said. "But it's the same game. You can't just go to overtime and not call anything. I think they made two good calls, and it paid off for us."

"That's part of the game," coach John Tortorella said. "We've lived through some things ourselves. They call them as they see it. I think they're trying to do the best job they can."

It took the Lightning 17 seconds to cash in. Lecavalier slid the puck past Olaf Kolzig, who saved the initial shot from defenseman Dan Boyle.

[Times photo: Dan McDuffie]
Martin St. Louis caps a breakaway by beating Olaf Kolzig and putting the Lightning up 3-2 with 8:47 left in regulation.

"I was in front of the net," said Lecavalier, who slid on one knee pumping his fist in celebration. "I made sure if there was going to be a rebound, I was going to try to grab it. It turned out I was there at the right time. It was a lucky goal, but I'm glad I got it."

If only Tampa Bay could get a little more consistency out of Khabibulin, who made 16 saves.

After St. Louis' goal with 8:47 left in the third put the Lightning ahead 3-2, Khabibulin misplayed Brendan Witt's slap shot from the slot with 2:56 left. Khabibulin had a good look but said the shot "just beat me."

So did Zubrus' first-period goal that got through Khabibulin's legs and tied the score at 1 after a misplay by defenseman Stan Neckar. Zubrus' second-period goal that tied the score at 2 came after a deflected pass floated high over Khabibulin, who lost track of the puck.

"I don't think I played my best game," Khabibulin said.

Still, he said, "It's a win. To get a win, the pressure is on them."

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