TAMPA — In a race for the puck from the goal line to the far blue line Monday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the difference between Marty St. Louis and Teddy Purcell was a half step.
That the 37-year-old St. Louis beat the 27-year-old Purcell caused a yelling, stick-banging celebration among their Lightning teammates.
"Everybody says he's 37," coach Guy Boucher said, "But, really, there's no age to his character."
And no age at which it seems St. Louis will slow down.
His 33 points are fourth in the league. His 27 assists are second. His average 21:56 of ice time is third among forwards and second among wings.
And last week St. Louis surpassed Vinny Lecavalier for most points in Tampa Bay history with 865 in 887 games, adding to the evidence St. Louis is the greatest offensive force the Lightning has seen.
With a team-record 540 assists, he is credited as the catalyst for the heights reached by Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos.
"I've known Marty for so long, it's normal for me what I see," said Lecavalier, who has 862 points in 1,023 games. "He's in great shape. He's fast. He's smart. I don't even think about his age. I know how hard he plays. That's why he's been successful."
Not bad for an undrafted player signed in July 2000 as a free agent.
But ask St. Louis about being the franchise's top points producer and he says he wasn't aware until told: "That's how much I care about it."
Especially during a season in which the Lightning and Panthers play tonight at the BB&T Center in Sunrise to determine which team will be at the bottom of the league standings.
"It's just a tough time right now," St. Louis said. "If you ask me if I'm having fun right now, it's not fun. But if you ask me am I still enjoying the game? Yeah."
And he is playing at a high level — two goals, seven assists in a six-game points streak — particularly since reducing the turnovers that had plagued him.
"The last seven or eight games I feel like myself," St. Louis said, "just on the puck, creating a lot."
During Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Canadiens, St. Louis had two assists in 23:18 of ice time, and his backhand pass through the legs of Montreal's Alexei Emelin that led to Stamkos' league-best 19th goal was superb.
"I told him, 'You know you passed it through that guy's legs?' " Stamkos said. "He knows it. If it was somebody else I'd say it was lucky."
St. Louis, 5 feet 7, 180 pounds, and signed through 2014-15, has left little to chance.
He is a notorious watcher of video and works as hard as ever in the summer at Ben Prentiss' gym in Darien, Conn., near St. Louis' Greenwich home.
Prentiss said St. Louis still "wants to get crushed in every single workout," but in consideration of his age "we pick and choose our spots. We have peaks and valleys more within our cycles of training."
Even so, "He's still at the higher level of fitness out of everybody in the gym," Prentiss said. "I don't see him slowing down at all if we keep doing things the right way."
Speaking of slowing down, Purcell said he beat St. Louis Monday in the second of their two puck races.
"It's one to one," Purcell said.
"But who got the puck?" St. Louis said.
The same guy who has the Lightning record for points.
Moves: Defenseman Radko Gudas was promoted to the Lightning from AHL Syracuse after Brendan Mikkelson cleared waivers and was demoted to the Crunch. Gudas, 22, at 6 feet, 204 pounds, has four goals, 20 points and 207 penalty minutes in 57 games and is an AHL-best plus-32. … Forward Dan Sexton, 25, was acquired from the Ducks for Syracuse forward Kyle Wilson. Sexton, 5-9, 180, has five goals, 16 points in 27 games for AHL Norfolk. He will play for the Crunch.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.