Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier has no regrets in going after Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin

TAMPA — Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said he does not regret anything he did or tried to do Sunday to Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Not jumping Malkin from behind or the sucker punch he threw to Malkin's face at the end of a scrum.

It was justified payback, Lecavalier said, for what he believes was Malkin's attempt in the third period of a 6-3 Pittsburgh victory to go for his knees while ducking a Lecavalier check.

"I thought he went a little low on the hit," Lecavalier said Monday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "Sometimes there's confrontations on the ice. It's heat of the moment. It just happens."

It was Lecavalier's first comments about the incident that resulted in him getting 14 minutes in penalties — four for boarding and a 10-minute misconduct — that removed him from the game with 7:49 left and the Penguins up 5-3.

Lecavalier left the arena Sunday without speaking to reporters, creating speculation he ducked them so as not to say anything inflammatory or that could be misinterpreted.

But Lecavalier said the situation was more innocent.

"There's nothing behind that," he said. "The game was over and I was dressed. I just left. I didn't think anything of it. I didn't leave to say I was running away from something. I really didn't."

Still, Lecavalier is the team captain. So it is his job to, you know, deal with the media — a task he never has protested — especially with his team losing seven straight games and him trying to beat up one of the league's stars.

The dustup was big news around the league. There were headlines in newspapers in the Tampa Bay area and Pittsburgh. It was discussed for several minutes between periods of NBC's national telecast of the Rangers-Canadiens game.

Analyst Mike Milbury called Malkin's move "dangerous."

But the view from on and off the ice apparently is different.

"I can see why," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of the fuss. "It's Malkin and Vinny. But my first initial thought was it went right by me."

"It's a minor incident," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "It's not a big deal. What's (Lecavalier) going to say? You're hoping he says something good. You want to get a good quote. I'd rather he say nothing than give you guys a headline."

Besides, added Yzerman, who for 20 years was captain of the Red Wings, Lecavalier, captain or not, had no obligation to speak to reporters about the incident.

"We play 82 games in the regular season, all through training camp, every day in practice, these guys are available. It's a minor incident. I don't think he needs to comment on it."

Lecavalier did for about five minutes after Monday's practice.

He said it did not immediately flash through his mind that Malkin, playing for Russia, was suspended from a semifinal game at the 2006 Olympics for trying to kick Canada's Lecavalier in the head during the quarterfinals.

Told Malkin said he simply tried to duck out of the way of Lecavalier's check on Sunday, Lecavalier said:

"Yeah, ducking out of the way and you get the guy's knees. I agree to disagree. Nothing happened. I didn't get hurt. My knees are fine. I just thought it was (a low hit) and he doesn't, so we can leave it at that."

NOTES: Wing Dana Tyrell, who sustained a lower body injury against the Penguins, will not play tonight against the Bruins, Boucher said. … Forward Trevor Smith was called up from AHL Norfolk, where he had a team-best 44 points.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

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