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Souray stands up, shoulders blame

A penalty in the first and a misplay in the second add up to a game to forget for the Montreal defenseman.

Published April 26, 2004

TAMPA - He stood up.

The doors of the Canadiens dressing room opened to reveal what looked to be a deserted room. But in one corner sat Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray, the Canadien who Lightning fans love to hate after he punched out defenseman Cory Sarich in Game 1.

Dressed in shorts and a Canadiens T-shirt, he waited. Unpleasant as it might be, he knew what was coming.

Seated at his locker, sweat still dripping from his face, Souray saw the pack of cameras and microphones coming toward him. And he stood up.

For 30 minutes, as wave after wave of reporters descended upon him, Souray patiently and politely answered every question. And that is no easy task when the questions are about being the goat of Game 2.

It was Souray's senseless penalty in the first period that gave the Lightning a two-man advantage and, essentially, a critical first goal. And - and this is the big one - it was Souray who coughed up the puck that led to Vinny Lecavalier's breakaway goal that turned out to be the play of the game and, perhaps, the series.

So, what happened?

"I just bobbled it," said Souray, as if he were replaying the nightmare in his mind.

With the Canadiens dominating the second period after cutting the Lightning lead to 2-1, they were just seconds away from recharging their batteries for what figured to be a frantic third. It seemed only a matter of time before they tied the score.

But Souray lost control of the puck at the Lightning blue line. Sarich - how's that for irony? - chipped it off the boards to Lecavalier, who scored on a breakaway with 2.4 seconds left.

"I had a million things going through my mind," said Souray. "And when that happens, that's not good."

He thought about passing the puck. Or dumping it behind the Lightning net. He considered circling back, or trying a long shot on goal.

He ended up doing none.

When he saw Lecavalier racing toward the Montreal end, Souray's thoughts went from a million to one: oh no.

"It's a little demoralizing," Souray said. "That puts us down 3-1. It's tough to come back from that instead of coming in here down 2-1."

As far as the critical play, Montreal coach Claude Julien didn't pin all the blame on Souray. Bad ice, he said, contributed to the puck popping off Souray's stick. Plus, Souray didn't get any help from defense partner Craig Rivet.

"We didn't react well," Julien said. "When you leave a player like Lecavalier behind the play, it becomes dangerous.

"With a little bit of time we want to be sure that we keep everybody in front of us, but we got caught flat-footed and they came back and scored what turned out to be a pretty important goal."

Almost as important was the always-important first goal. That came when the Lightning was on a five-on-three power play after Souray took an unnecessary cross-checking penalty.

"I just felt being down a man, I'd try to get away with one," Souray said.

"But you've got to be more disciplined than that."

Souray answered every question and before heading off to the showers, said, "I'm pointing the finger at myself. ... I think we have players who can play better and I put myself at the top of that list."

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