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Jubilant Fedotenko washes away trade, scar

It certainly wasn't an easy series for the Lightning forward, but he ended it with authority.

By BRANT JAMES
Published June 8, 2004

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]

TAMPA - Ruslan Fedotenko's Stanley Cup memento will be right there glancing back at him every morning when he brushes his teeth. That faint scar arching across his right check from Game 3.

If he moves a little closer to the mirror, drags a finger over that right eye brow, he might still feel that little lump where a stick blade opened a gash in Game 7.

That's when his real Stanley Cup trinket catches his eye. A championship ring. That's a nice ending to a story that began in so much turmoil.

Fedotenko was a disappointment to Lightning fans before he ever played his first game with the franchise, the player involved in a 2002 draft day trade that sent the team's fourth overall pick to Philadelphia.

But as a working piece of a reconstruction that needed impact players, not prospects, the 25-year-old Ukranian made his value evident in everyday ways.

On Monday, Fedotenko delivered the fireworks everyone expected from someone supposedly worth a first-round pick. Fedotenko scored the Lightning's goals, giving him 12 for the postseason - tied for most on the team with Brad Richards - and giving him three winning goals. It also gave the Lightning the Stanley Cup in a 2-1 Game 7 win.

Awash in champagne and sweat, wide grin pushing his scar out of view, Fedotenko seemed a long way from that pressure-filled first season in Tampa.

"It doesn't matter about the trade anymore," Fedotenko said. "I am here. We won. That matters."

Fedotenko's first goal of the night was a blend of finesse and determination. With less than seven minutes left in the first period, and the Lightning on the power play, Fedotenko angled to the slot as Richards fired from the right, then angled his stick to put a shot on goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. Fedotenko stepped around flat-footed defenseman Robyn Regehr to race onto his rebound and snap in his 11th of the postseason.

Fedotenko's second was a matter of accuracy. After Vinny Lecavalier collected the puck along the boards and slinked in toward the crease, Calgary defensemen Steve Montador and Toni Lydman collapsed on him, leaving Fedotenko alone at the high slot. When Lecavalier pushed the puck high, Fedotenko one-timed it in for a 2-0 lead at 14:38 of the second.

"Great pass by Vinny," said Fedotenko, squinting against a Nolan Pratt champagne gusher. "Great set up by (Cory) Stillman. I just ended up in the high slot and I was able to put it in."

Fedotenko played like he was trying to make up for Game 4, when he had to sit out after colliding cheekfirst into the boards as he was ridden off a play by Regehr. The play left Fedotenko with a nasty gash and a rumored concussion, but he returned to play 19:06 in Game 5 and had an assist as the Lightning won 3-2 in overtime on Saturday to force Game 7. Fedotenko earned six stitches and his second scar with 11:07 left in the first when he was dumped on a breakaway.

"I was hopeful I could come back and help the team," Fedotenko said. "I couldn't expect that, but obviously everyone worked hard, very hard for it."

Hard-earned mementos, hard-earned Cup.

[Last modified June 8, 2004, 01:00:38]

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