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Tampa Bay Lightning wing Gary Roberts, 42, takes on Boston Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart, 24

TAMPA — Gary Roberts had not fought in more than a year.

And at age 42, few might expect the left wing to drop the gloves, especially after battling injuries for the better part of the past two seasons.

But Roberts saw Boston D Mark Stuart take a run at RW Mark Recchi in the first period, then try to finish a hard check against C Steven Stamkos.

It didn't matter to Roberts that Stuart is 18 years younger. He had seen Stuart fight and knew he was in for a energy-sucking tussle in his first brawl since December 2007.

"I just thought it was time to stand up for my teammates and try to get a little bit of excitement in the building," Roberts said. "We had a good crowd, and there was a nice buzz in the arena. When you have that kind of environment, it's a lot more fun to play hockey."

Roberts was still banging bodies late in the third and almost got his stick on a loose puck in front of Boston's goal following a shot by C Vinny Prospal.

"He's not afraid to do that," Stamkos said. "He's known for being an in-your-face kind of guy. He went out there, had a heck of a fight and got us some momentum out there."

Judging by the ovation from the announced crowd of 18,454, Roberts held his own and then some. "He took some hits from behind, and he was hitting guys," coach Rick Tocchet said. "He's going down swinging."

Water under the bridge: Recchi played after Tocchet scratched him for the first time this season, Friday against Carolina. Tocchet said he wanted to give the 41-year-old a rest in back-to-back games. The Lightning had played the Devils on Thursday.

Recchi, who was openly disappointed, scored his 13th goal Sunday and had 17:49 of ice time.

"It's frustrating because you want to play all the time," Recchi said. "I understood. … It's water under the bridge."

Not a record: The Lightning got first-period goals 15 seconds apart from C Jeff Halpern and RW Adam Hall. But the time between the goals that gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead is not even close to a team record. On Jan. 9, 2004, Dave Andreychuk and Fredrik Modin scored nine seconds apart in a 4-1 win at New Jersey.

SELF-SACRIFICE: The Lightning has done a much better job blocking shots in its past three games, with 23, 17 and 20 against the Devils, Hurricanes and Bruins, respectively.

Still, there is room for improvement, Tocchet said: "That's one of the mandates for me. We have to be better at that. We've got to be a better team that takes the lanes away. If you take away the shot lanes, it makes it a better defensive team."

It is as much willingness as technique, he said: "You can't go to the point with just your stick. You've got to have your full body there. It's just something you have to do. It's not even negotiable."

Odds and ends: G Karri Ramo has stopped 122 of 132 shots in his past three starts for a .924 save percentage. … LW David Koci got his first NHL point with an assist on Recchi's goal. … D Marek Malik (ankle) returned after missing three games. … D Lukas Krajicek sat out for the second straight game and said he has an MRI exam scheduled today on a sore right hip.

Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Lightning wing Gary Roberts, 42, takes on Boston Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart, 24 02/22/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 23, 2009 8:02am]
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