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St. Louis exceeds MVP performance

An argument can be made that Marty St. Louis is playing the best hockey of his career.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published April 20, 2007


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - An argument can be made that Marty St. Louis is playing the best hockey of his career.

It is almost a no-brainer, really, considering his regular-season career highs of 43 goals and 102 points and the Lightning right wing is tied for playoff leads with eight points, five assists and plus-7.

Still, he was the 2004 regular-season MVP, so it was notable when St. Louis said, “I agree,” when someone mentioned they believed his overall game is better than his Hart Trophy season.

"I have more experience, more maturity," St. Louis, 31, said. "I know the level I have to go to in the playoffs to help the team win."

That level was on full display in Game 4, when St. Louis scored a goal and four minutes later made a hustling play to negate an icing and assist on Vinny Lecavalier's goal that tied the score 3-3.

"That's why we tied that game up, through his will and effort," coach John Tortorella said. "Marty, in the second period, for six, seven or eight minutes there, was probably at one of the highest levels I've ever seen our team play at."

"He's just focused," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "You can see it in his eyes on faceoffs that he's ready to jump and get loose pucks. He's got that drive right now."

WORKING OVERTIME: If you disregard players from the Canucks and Stars, who have played four overtimes in their series, St. Louis 27:36, Lecavalier (26:38) and Brad Richards (24:51) entered Thursday as the top three forwards in average ice time. Jason Ward (23:02) was fifth.

"Any time you play a big game, the next day you're tired," said Lecavalier, who played 31:29 in Game 4. "But after a skate and a good night's sleep, you're ready to go."

GAME 6: Sunday's game at the St. Pete Times Forum will be at 1 p.m. on Ch. 8. A time for Game 7, if needed, remains undetermined.

ODDS AND ENDS: Wing Ruslan Fedotenko has one shot on goal in four games. ... The Devils' Game 4 victory snapped a five-game losing streak in playoff overtime games. New Jersey's previous victory was in triple overtime of Game 5 of the 2003 East semifinal against Tampa Bay. ... Brodeur is 9-19 in playoff overtimes, 3-0 against the Lightning. He has allowed three goals in a personal-worst four straight playoff games. ... Devils defenseman Colin White, who has missed two games with a sore back, skated but will wait for today to determine if he can play.