MONTREAL - Vinny Lecavalier looked like a mad dog on the end of a flimsy leash. You know, the kind of vicious dog you see outside of a junk yard or a sketchy house in a bad neighborhood.
Held back by an official, he was yelling, trying to get free, all arms and legs and obscenities.
This was Game 3 of the series against the Canadiens. The game was only six minutes old, but already, Lecavalier had enough. Fed up with the Canadiens rough treatment of he and Martin St. Louis in the first few shifts, Lecavalier was looking for a little frontier justice.
The way he figured, if the Canadiens barked, he had to bite. If they pushed, he had to shove. If they threatened, he had to strike.
Forget getting retribution on the scoreboard. Forget turning the other cheek. Forget discipline. He wanted a little blood.
Everyone in Tampa Bay knows about Lecavalier's skills of finesse and offense. He showed that with his dipsy-doodle, stick-between-the-legs, did-you-see-that move to tie Game 3 with 16.5 seconds left. He showed that with his 32 goals and 66 points.
But what gets lost in his array of offensive highlights is the edge with which Lecavalier occasionally plays. This series against the Canadiens has shown, when ruffled, he isn't afraid to raise his feathers.
He has a mean streak, and will use it. Not all the time, but when necessary.
"We've seen it before," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We know what Vinny can do."
What Lecavalier can do is mix it up with anyone. He boxes in the offseason and is one of the league's few stars who is willing to drop the gloves. The problem is, he occasionally lets his emotions get the better of him. For example, in his Game 3 junkyard-dog act, he ended up getting sentenced to six minutes in the penalty box.
"It's not the smartest play to punch someone after the whistle six minutes into the game," Lecavalier said. "We talked about it in the dressing room, about how we've got to be disciplined."
Lecavalier, though, could not help himself. He had too much adrenaline pumping through him. And, darn it, he wasn't going to let anyone try to intimidate him or his teammates.
"Yeah, I was very excited, I was definitely really ready to play," Lecavalier said. "Sometimes your emotions are a little too strong and you do something you don't want to do."
The Lightning, though, don't have a big problem with Lecavalier playing with a bit of a mean streak as long as it doesn't cost his team.
"He needs to stay a little more disciplined with it," Tortorella said. "There's a fine line. You want your players playing with that emotion, but also with some composure.
"We still have a pretty young hockey club, and they're learning how to deal with some of the intensities of the game. This is a tremendous process for them. Vinny also is finding that fine line."
Don't be surprised, though, if somewhere again in these playoffs, Lecavalier breaks the leash and crosses that line again.