By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001
Lightning center Brad Richards is finding it tough to explain scoring a goal in each of Canada's three victories at the World Championships.
"Very surprising," he said Thursday from Hanover, Germany. "I usually get more assists, but things are going well and the puck is going in the net."
Canada was 3-0 in pool play and is one of 12 teams -- including the United States, Russia, two-time defending champion Czech Republic and 1998 champion Sweden -- in the qualifying round that begins today in Hanover and Cologne.
Four teams were demoted to the relegation round in Nuremberg.
Richards and Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier have made huge contributions to Canada's effort, which includes Wednesday's convincing 5-1 victory over archrival Russia.
Richards is plus-3, and his three goals are tied for the tournament lead with former Lightning Robert Petrovicky, who plays for Slovakia. Lecavalier has a goal and an assist, and is plus-1.
"It's awesome," Lecavalier said. "We have a great team and a great bunch of guys, and right now we're playing unbelievable."
"I think we took a big step (Wednesday) night in beating the Russians," Richards said. "We controlled every part of the game. That's definitely a big confidence booster. There's a long ways to go, but we're very confident."
Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina has not scored but is plus-3 for the Czech Republic. Forward Alexander Kharitonov has two goals for Russia.
LIGHTNING PRESEASON: Tampa Bay will play the Senators in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sept. 18 and the Blue Jackets in Syracuse, N.Y., on Sept. 19. The rest of the schedule is expected to be announced shortly.