TAMPA — Lightning C Vinny Lecavalier had a big part in Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Penguins.
He assisted on two goals in a third-period comeback that briefly tied the score 3-3.
But he also attacked and sucker punched Evgeni Malkin with 7:49 left in the game, earning 14 minutes in penalties — a double-minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct — with Tampa Bay down 5-3.
Lecavalier left the arena before talking to reporters; unusual for a captain whose free-falling team lost its seventh straight.
"Vinny felt Malkin tried to go for his knees," Boucher said.
"In those situations, he's the captain. He wants to show we're not going to take everything and not just be little poodles and wait for things to happen. For me, there's absolutely no blame on his part there."
Malkin said he saw Lecavalier coming for a big hit and ducked to "save myself."
As they skated up the ice, Lecavalier grabbed Malkin from behind and punched him a couple of times. As the ensuing scrum seemed to calm, Lecavalier punched Malkin in the face.
"I didn't say anything," Malkin said. "I just wanted to play hockey. I'm not going to fight. Five minutes left, I wanted to stay on the ice."
Two other factors made the confrontation intriguing. Lecavalier, who entered with 28 penalty minutes this season, rarely displays that kind of aggression, and the two have a history. Malkin was suspended for Russia's semifinal in the 2006 Olympics for trying to kick Canada's Lecavalier in the head in the quarterfinals.
Was that incident in the back of Lecavalier's mind? Who knows? He wasn't around to answer.
"It's just the way it happens," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "There were emotions out there."
Told Lecavalier acted out of character, Bylsma said, "It's not like (Malkin), either. I don't think either … put stamps on their career by playing that way."
"All I know is why he was going after Malkin," Boucher said. "I would love him on the ice, but it's one of those moments. Guys are emotional. They care. If they didn't care, you don't see that."
HOPE: The Lightning power play is in a 4-for-41 slump but scored on its only chance Sunday and has converted two straight. The new wrinkle: using five forwards.
"We're talking a little better," said Ryan Malone , who scored Sunday. "We're trying to battle for those loose pucks and look for the open guy. It's not really rocket science. We've got to make sure five guys are working hard."
MEDICAL MATTERS: RW Dana Tyrell left in the third period because of a lower-body injury.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Tampa Bay for the first time in its history allowed hat tricks in consecutive games. Washington's Troy Brouwer got one Friday.
ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning's seven-game losing streak is its longest since a nine-gamer to end 2008-09. … D Matt Gilroy scored his first Lightning goal and first in 71 games (Jan. 5, 2011, for the Rangers). … Pittsburgh had one power-play goal in seven previous games before getting two Sunday. … The Lightning's 54 first-period goals allowed are eight more than the next-highest team. … D Marc-Andre Bergeron (back) and RW J.T. Wyman (pinky) were scratched.