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Vinny Lecavalier displaying winning habit for Tampa Bay Lightning

RALEIGH, N.C. — The way Vinny Lecavalier started and stopped his answer showed he was having trouble with the question:

Is being tied for the league lead with three winning goals an indicator of skill or luck?

"You know, it's …" he said.

"Maybe if …" he added.

"Honestly," he finally said, laughing, "I think it's luck. If we were having six, seven, eight overtimes, it would be different. But during a regular game, it just happens that way."

Actually, teammate Teddy Purcell said, "it's the odds. … When you score a lot like he does, you're going to get game winners."

Whatever the explanation, Tampa Bay will take it along with the evidence Lecavalier's resurgence that began in February still is going strong.

Lecavalier, 31, has five goals and eight points in 11 games. Extrapolated over an 82-game schedule, that's a 37-goal season, and that would be the most Lecavalier has scored since he had 40 in 2007-08.

Add that to the 17 goals and 30 points he had in last season's final 28 games, and the six goals and 19 points he had in the playoffs, and you have a clear trend.

"I feel really good," said Lecavalier, whose winners have accounted for three of Tampa Bay's five victories. "I'm getting some great opportunities."

"He's putting himself in amazing situations," coach Guy Boucher said, "He's looking good offensively."

Imagine if Lecavalier buried more of his chances.

He cringed recalling Thursday's loss to the Predators, in which goalie Pekka Rinne robbed him of one goal and sliding defenseman Shea Weber denied him of another with a block.

Lecavalier sometimes hesitates with the puck, Boucher said. And he wants Lecavalier, second on the team with 31 shots, to shoot more. That should resonate after the way Lecavalier scored — from a ridiculous angle against the right-wing boards and near the goal line — in Saturday's 1-0 victory over the Jets.

"The last three games, he could have come out with two or three goals a game," Boucher said. "He's certainly on the right track. It's just a matter of a fraction of a second here or there. Once you find that, it's lethal."

The reasons for Lecavalier's rejuvenation have been well documented.

For the first time in five years he did not have a surgery from which to rehabilitate over the summer, meaning he is in better shape. And he has what Boucher calls "a free mind and free spirit" while no longer dealing with trade rumors that dogged him under the previous ownership and management groups, with which Lecavalier's relationship was strained.

His biggest problem heading into tonight's game with the Hurricanes at the RBC Center is refining his rediscovered game.

Perhaps he could have shot higher on Rinne or quicker to get the puck past Weber.

"The more opportunities you get, even if you miss them, if you know another one is coming soon, you feel better shooting the puck," Lecavalier said. "You don't squeeze your stick. That's big."

And the way you make your own luck.

.fast facts

Lightning at Hurricanes

When/where: 7; RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: C Steven Stamkos entered Monday with five goals and two assists in a six-game points streak that was the league's current longest. … Tampa Bay has killed 14 straight penalties. … Hurricanes C Eric Staal has one goal, one assist in his past nine games and is a league-worst minus-13. … The Lightning has won three straight at the RBC Center by a combined 15-5.

Vinny Lecavalier displaying winning habit for Tampa Bay Lightning 10/31/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 31, 2011 9:43pm]

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