WASHINGTON — Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis certainly deserve credit for the big goals they scored in the Lightning's 3-2 overtime win over the Capitals on Sunday night.
But if it weren't for three hustle — and heads-up — plays to help set them up, Tampa Bay might not be coming home up two games to none in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
There was Ryan Malone, sprawled on the ice behind the net on the power play, finding a way to get the puck to Lecavalier in the right circle before his power-play goal in the first period.
There was right wing Teddy Purcell stripping Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom of the puck in the Washington zone before passing to St. Louis for his third-period goal.
And there was defenseman Randy Jones, in his first game since March 7 due to a high ankle sprain, having the awareness to catch the Capitals on a bad line change and feeding a two-line pass to Purcell up the left boards to start the two-on-one with Lecavalier on the overtime winner.
Malone's assist wasn't pretty, but it was gritty. In his usual spot on the power play, in front, Malone said he didn't know if he slipped, or was tripped, but found himself face first on the ice behind the net. It appeared like he passed the puck from his glove to his stick and whipped it over to Lecavalier. Lecavalier had a give-and-go with St. Louis before ripping in a one-timer.
"Bugsy did that last game too on my goal," center Steven Stamkos said. "He's just not giving up under any circumstances."
Said coach Guy Boucher: "He's a warrior."
Purcell, who has seven assists in the playoffs, said he and St. Louis caught the Capitals on a long shift before the third-period goal. The Lightning had lost possession, but Purcell lifted Backstrom's stick in the left circle, stealing the puck, retrieving it behind the net and passing it to St. Louis. St. Louis admitted he got a little lucky when his cross-crease pass to Lecavalier bounced in off Capitals defenseman Mike Green's skate but said it was a "great effort by Teddy to hunt the puck down."
"I had body position on (Backstrom), he couldn't really do much unless he took a penalty," Purcell said. "And I just got the puck back and gave it out front."
Jones logged just 5 minutes, 27 seconds of ice time in his first action of the playoffs, filling in for injured defenseman Pavel Kubina (upper body). But Jones picked up a big assist when, after going to his own blue line to retrieve the puck, he took a quick glance back and noticed Washington on a line change. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said not only was it a bad change, the "guys that were coming out didn't come on anywhere near as quick as they should have."
"I didn't see too many (defensemen), and I saw Teddy cutting across the blue line," Jones said. "One thing we work on is get the puck and get it up quickly, and that's what I was trying to do."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.