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Mara & Co. no pushover

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000


TAMPA -- The whistle signaled the end of the play, but Pittsburgh's Josef Beranek took the shot at goaltender Kevin Weekes anyway.

That's a no-no in the NHL. Tampa Bay defenseman Paul Mara let Beranek know it with a couple of good shoves, which prompted a short but intense scrum along the boards.

"I thought it was a late shot," Mara said after Saturday's practice at the Ice Palace. "You have to stick up for your goalie and your teammates."

Mara stuck up for himself throughout Friday night's 3-2 loss to the Penguins at Mellon Arena.

The 21-year-old played a team-high 24 minutes, 26 seconds on 28 shifts. He had two shots on goal, including a one-timer on which goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin had to come up big, and was pro-active on defense instead of reactive.

Quite a difference from his previous game in which he was on the ice for four Vancouver goals, including three in the final 2:55 that gave the Canucks a 5-4 victory.

"We played against the (Jaromir) Jagr line," Mara said of he and Pavel Kubina, who also played well during 24:14 of ice time. "We had to be focused every single shift. For the most part, we kept things in check."

And in Beranak's case, a check on things.

TO THE RESCUE: What was Pittsburgh's Bob Boughner thinking when he cross-checked Vinny Lecavalier across the back as the captain celebrated his first goal of the season?

"I guess he thinks he was allowed to cross-check a guy five minutes after the play," Lecavalier said. "I didn't think it was right. The play was over. He almost broke my back."

Lecavalier went back at Boughner and was quickly joined by his teammates.

Right wing Mike Johnson was one of the first to arrive. "I think I was just the closest guy," he dead-panned.

But seriously, "Everybody is there to help each other out if a skirmish develops," Johnson said.

"Nobody is going to push us around," coach Steve Ludzik said. "Nobody is going to touch anybody on our team, bottom line."

Boughner got two minutes each for cross-checking and roughing. Lecavalier got two for roughing.

ODDS AND ENDS: Jassen Cullimore played his first game of the season and was even in plus/minus after 22 shifts and 15:16 of ice time. He also threw a jarring check into Penguins right wing Matthew Barnaby. ... Defenseman Andrei Zyuzin is scheduled to rejoin the team today after a two-game conditioning assignment with the IHL's Detroit Vipers. Defenseman Sergey Gusev is scheduled to leave Monday for his three-game assignment.

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