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Prospal gives Lightning OT win

Vinny Prospal, nervous and agitated, sat on the bench, wondering what Saturday night's game against the Penguins would bring.

The Lightning forward had not scored a goal in five games. Coach John Tortorella had moved him from left wing to center.

And Mario Lemieux made a surprise start for the Penguins 12 days after surgery to repair cartilage in his hip.

"If I knew it all would come out like it did," Prospal said, "I would've have stayed nice and calm on the bench."

Prospal sent his bench into a frenzy as his power-play goal with 30.2 seconds left in overtime gave Tampa Bay a much-needed 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh before an animated crowd of 18,812 at the Ice Palace.

The victory snapped the Lightning's six-game losing streak. It was Prospal's fifth goal, matching his total from last season, when he played for the Senators and Panthers, and was the first overtime goal of his career.

"It feels really good," Prospal said. "It's huge for us."

The game featured a scary moment in the third period when Lightning wing Matthew Barnaby went down after a knee-to-knee hit with Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis. Barnaby escaped with a bruise.

Before cashing in on a man advantage in overtime, caused when Billy Tibbetts was called for slashing, the Lightning was 0-for-6 on the power play.

It fell behind twice in the game: 1-0 in the first period on Alexei Morozov's goal (assisted by Le-mieux), which broke an 0-for-24 drought with the man advantage for the NHL's worst power play, and 2-1 in the second period on a penalty shot by former Lightning forward Wayne Primeau.

The call by referee Brad Watson was questionable, as Ben Clymer barely disturbed Primeau's breakaway that came during a Lightning power play. Primeau cashed in by going five-hole on goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.

Other than that, Khabibulin, who made 29 saves, was outstanding, and Tampa Bay got goals in the second period by Vinny Lecavalier and Juha Ylonen.

It was Lecavalier's second and Ylonen's first, and it marked the first time in seven games Tampa Bay scored two goals in a period.

"Huge," defenseman Nolan Pratt said. "It's a big win in our season. I don't know, maybe it's one of those games that can turn things around."

The day began with Lemieux giving his team what seemed to be a huge lift, announcing he would play after missing six games because of injury and five after his surgery Oct. 29.

"There's no danger of making the injury worse," Lemieux said before the game. "(The doctor) said I'm going to have soreness for a while until it gets better. I want to be back on the ice."

After the game, in which he played 22 minutes on 24 shifts and was minus-2, he said, "I really felt good. I was skating well. I felt pretty good after a couple of weeks not skating."

Forty-four seconds into the game, Pratt bumped Lemieux in a corner after a whistle blew for a delayed offside. Lemieux pushed Pratt, Pratt responded and a scrum ensued. Both were given roughing penalties. Lemieux, who got his first two penalties of the season, wouldn't comment on the play.

"I had no idea the whistle blew," Pratt said. "We kind of battled going for the puck. He got the better of me. I gave him a little extra shove and he came back at me and got the better of me again."

The game seemed to be getting the better of Prospal, who played 7:11 on 10 shifts through the first two periods. He played just 11:32 on 14 shifts in the game.

But Tortorella gave him a chance in overtime. Prospal's shot, after passes from Brad Richards and Ben Clymer, went through the legs of Kasparaitis and beat goalie Jean-Sebastein Aubin.

"It was pretty important for us to get it rolling," Tortorella said. "It wasn't pretty but we found a way to win."

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