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St. Louis saves his best for the end

The right wing's goal in OT gives a jump to his up-and-down postseason.

TOM JONES
Published June 6, 2004

CALGARY - For more than 80 minutes, he hardly was noticed.

All season long, the Lightning turned to their little guy, their MVP, probably the league's MVP.

But when Saturday's Game 6 rolled around, it appeared as if Martin St. Louis finally had run out of gas. It appeared as if the Lightning had turned to him for the final time, at least this season.

But the smallest player in a Lightning uniform had one more big trick up his hockey sweater, one more bit of overtime magic left to perform.

St. Louis' goal 33 seconds into the second overtime gave the Lightning life. It gave Tampa Bay Game 7 back in Tampa on Monday. It gave it a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

"I was just trying to put it on net," St. Louis said. "At that point in time, usually a fluke goal is going to win it. I just tried to put as much on it as I could."

He put the weight of the series on it.

The Lightning's Mr. Overtime struck again. For the third time in two postseasons, St. Louis scored an overtime goal.

All three have been huge, even more special than your run-of-the-mill overtime winner.

He ended last season's first-round series against the Caps with the winner in overtime.

This season, he ended another first-round series with his Game 5 overtime winner against the Islanders.

None, though, was bigger than Saturday night. St. Louis picked up a rebound of a Tim Taylor slap shot and scooped it over Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to give the Lightning seventh heaven.

As Calgary's Red Sea parted in front of him, St. Louis sent the Lightning into pandemonium with his sixth postseason winning goal.

St. Louis' postseason heroics should not have come as a surprise, but his winner Saturday did because of the way the playoffs have played out for him.

After a blistering start with four goals in the Lightning's first five games (all against the Islanders), St. Louis cooled off. He went the entire Montreal series without a goal.

Then came the Flyers series and only one goal in seven games - a goal that came in a Lightning loss.

By the time the final rolled around, St. Louis, who is listed at 5 feet 8 but is more like 5-6, appeared to finally break down from physical pounding dished out by the Flyers.

In this series, he had goals in Games 1, 2 and 5, but did not appear to be the same player he had been for much of this MVP-type season. His goal in Game 2 was his first even-strength goal since the series winner against the Islanders, a span of 13 games.

Saturday, St. Louis gave his all, but looked a step behind, a step slow all night. Turned out, he was saving his energy for the most dramatic goal in franchise history.

After getting outplayed for much of the first overtime, the Lightning sent the puck into the Flames zone to start the second. Taylor took a shot from the right point that was stopped by Kiprusoff. But St. Louis, racing to the front of the net, lifted the rebound into the top shelf for his ninth goal of the postseason.

"I was just trying to wait to see where the rebound would go," St. Louis said. "I just wanted to put it on net. You never know."

The Lightning, though, knows this: Martin St. Louis has scored the biggest goal in its history.

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