Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For Lightning's Lecavalier, a small step

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — When Vinny Lecavalier reminisces about his career, the goal he scored Tuesday will not immediately spring to mind.

The shot might have gone high had it not clipped an opponent's stick. And it came during a game that, while exciting, was more notable because it was the last of the preseason.

But in the context of the past five-plus months of injury and rehabilitation, the third-period, tying goal, and the shootout goal that gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 victory over HC Slovan in front of 8,000 at sold-out, pulsating Samsung Arena, will have its place.

"It's nice that the puck went in," Lecavalier said. "It really builds some confidence."

And perhaps some momentum. As goaltender Mike Smith said, "He's going to get better and better from now on."

It probably is unfair that every step Lecavalier takes, good and bad, is picked at and analyzed. But it comes with the territory as one of the world's highest profile players, a captain and holder of a new 11-year, $85-million contract extension.

He also was playing in just his second game since April surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

So when the Lightning's all-time leader in goals and points scored on the power play with 6:26 left in the third period to tie the score at 2, then made what coach Barry Melrose called a "beautiful move" to score backhanded along the ice in the shootout Tampa Bay won 2-1, a bit of equilibrium seemed restored.

"The shoulder felt really good on the ice," Lecavalier said. "I got hit a lot more tonight," than in his first game Sunday in Berlin.

"Tonight was a great test," he added. "It was kind of a perfect progression. The last game wasn't physical at all. This game was more physical, a better game, a tighter game. I'm excited. I'm ready to go."

The Lightning (5-1) seemed ready in many ways.

Smith was solid in goal. Lecavalier's wings Marty St. Louis and Vinny Prospal skated well. Evgeny Artyukhin scored after a half-rink rush, though the puck was inadvertently knocked in by a Slovan player, and Jussi Jokinen scored the first shootout goal.

But there also were kinks.

Tampa Bay had trouble finishing and hit three crossbars and a post. The team lost focus in the second period and took a series of frustration penalties that kept it on the penalty kill most of the time.

"Bad penalties," coach Barry Melrose said. "I think we had $40-million (in salaries) on the bench in the second period."

And though its puck movement was better, the power play was 1-for-7 to finish the preseason 3-for-33.

Lecavalier, too, fought the puck at times, once smacking his stick to the ice after the puck rolled off his blade.

"It's frustrating when it happens. It's like a spasm," he said. "It comes off your stick and you're like, 'Why is this happening?' But I'm not thinking it's because of the shoulder. It's because it's my first games."

"The good thing is, Vinny got another game under his belt," Melrose said. "He was better in this game than the last one, and I played the (heck) out of him in the third period. He did a lot of skating, and that's good."

Good for a second game, anyway.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at

For Lightning's Lecavalier, a small step 09/30/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 2:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pro Bowl returning to Orlando in 2018


    ORLANDO — The Pro Bowl will return to Orlando in 2018 for the second straight year.

    Bucs  wide receiver Mike Evans runs a route as Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. defends during the first quarter of the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in January at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Erasmo Ramirez makes his third start of the season.
  3. If Tony Dungy sticks around, he'll broadcast the 2021 Tampa Super Bowl for NBC


    Lost in the Super Tuesday news of the Super Bowl coming back to Tampa was this nugget:

    Pictured, from left, Dan Patrick, co-Host, Tony Dungy, studio analyst, Aaron Rodgers. [Ben Cohen/NBC]
  4. Tragedy, tenacity helped shape Ridgewood valedictorian Johannah Cummines

    Volleyball Preps

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Even if her daily routine didn't permit calories to melt off, Johannah Cummines would deserve to pick anything on the menu.

    Ridgewood High senior Johannah Cummines and mom Chenell. Cummines is headed to Florida Atlantic, where she will play beach volleyball. (Photo courtesy of Johannah Cummines)
  5. Bucs Roberto Aguayo kicks off 2017 on the wrong foot


    The goal posts still seem to be moving for Roberto Aguayo.

    The Bucs woebegone place-kicker, who is in a battle with veteran Nick Folk, went 1-for-4 in field goal tries from 35-40 yards Tuesday on a set of narrow uprights, the first day of full squad Organized Team Activities.

    If that weren’t …

    Roberto Aguayo went 1-for-4 in field goal tries from 35-40 yards Tuesday on a set of narrow uprights.