TAMPA — Goaltender Mike Smith said he could sense during warmups something good was going on with Vinny Lecavalier.
The Lightning captain was "shooting the puck really hard."
So it was no surprise when Lecavalier, after scratching his back with his stick blade on his windup, leaned into a one-timer that flew so high and so fast, it blew past unscreened Stars goaltender Marty Turco.
"That," Smith said, "was a goal in any league."
And Lecavalier's second goal of the game, the winner in a 4-2 victory Monday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"Not many guys in the league can score goals like that," coach Rick Tocchet said of the blast that snapped a 2-2 tie with 5:06 left in the game. "That was a special goal."
It highlighted Lecavlier's three-point night and an improbable win in which Tampa Bay (15-21-10) was outshot 25-20, had all kinds of trouble getting out of its zone and was so depleted defensively because of injuries, it claimed Cory Murphy off re-entry waivers from the Panthers and rushed him into the lineup.
But the Lightning scored three times in the final nine minutes to break Dallas' eight-game winning streak at the Times Forum and earn its second win when trailing after two periods.
Steven Stamkos tied the score 2-2 with 8:14 left, and Vinny Prospal scored with 48.9 seconds left with Tampa Bay's first empty-netter of the season.
The matchup was the first between the teams since February, when Brad Richards was traded to Dallas for Smith and forwards Jeff Halpern and Jussi Jokinen.
For Smith, beating Turco his friend and ex-mentor, was "emotionally draining" and "surreal." How, then, must it have been for Lecavalier to best Richards?
The longtime friends, who played together in high school, juniors and with the Lightning, had never been on opposite sides. And Richards got a rousing cheer after a scoreboard video tribute that ended with the words, "Thanks for the memories, Brad."
At that point, Richards already had a goal, scored 1:53 into the game on the power play, 20 seconds after Lecavalier gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead with a short-handed breakaway goal sparked by Marty St. Louis' perfect pass from the defensive zone.
Richards also assisted on Loui Eriksson's second-period goal that gave Dallas a 2-1 lead. But Lecavalier had the final say with a one-timer teed up perfectly by Murphy.
"It was a one-touch pass," said Lecavalier, who has a team-best 21 goals and nine straight seasons with at least 20. "Sometimes if somebody waits before giving it to you, the goalie has time to come in front of that shot. And where (Murphy) put (the puck), it was a little bit in front; that's why it took off upstairs."
Lecavalier shook his head when asked about bragging rights over his friend.
"I don't want to say that," he said. It's just a great two points."
Said Richards: "I had fun out there until five minutes left in the third. It was a fun time to come back. But the bigger picture is that we really wanted to win the game, not just because it's them, but we need the points right now, and we threw them away."
Helped, Smith said, by "a world-class shot."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 20 (St. Louis), 1:33 (sh). 2, Dallas, Richards 12 (Parrish, Robidas), 1:53 (pp). Penalties—Murphy, TB (holding), :38; Craig, TB (hooking), 2:50; Downie, TB (hooking), 12:20; Malone, TB (hooking), 16:29.
Second Period—3, Dallas, Eriksson 22 (Modano, Richards), 4:19. Penalties—Meszaros, TB (high-sticking), 6:44; Recchi, TB (high-sticking), 13:28; Lundqvist, Dal (interference), 16:59.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 6 (Downie, Jokinen), 11:46. 5, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 21 (Murphy, Recchi), 14:54 (pp). 6, Tampa Bay, Prospal 11 (St. Louis, Lecavalier), 19:11 (en). Penalties—Niskanen, Dal (holding), 14:07; Murphy, TB (delay of game), 19:35. Shots on Goal—Dallas 12-8-5—25. Tampa Bay 8-3-9—20. Power-play opportunities—Dallas 1 of 7; Tampa Bay 1 of 2. Goalies—Dallas, Turco 18-16-7 (19 shots-16 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 12-16-9 (25-23). A—13,991 (19,758).