Looking tired, somewhat battered and ready to wilt at times on Sunday night, the Lightning will walk tall heading home.
Vinny Lecavalier scored his second career overtime playoff winner 6:19 in to the extra session to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 victory against Washington in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Lightning hold a 2-0 series lead heading home for Game 3 on Tuesday.
With star winger Simon Gagne and defenseman Pavel Kubina out of the lineup with apparent head injuries and the Lightning playing for the fourth time in seven nights and on the road for the sixth consecutive day, Tampa Bay dug down deep enough to pull out another game despite being outplayed for good portions of the night.
Lecavalier scored twice, while Marty St. Louis had a goal and an assist as two of the Lightning's key figures found a way to help will the team to a fifth consecutive playoff victory, all since falling behind 3-1 in the first-round series against Pittsburgh.
"These are character guys, and I keep hearing the other teams ask in the first round on why we are tough to beat, and our top guys, they are character guys,'' Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "I have a lot of respect for them.''
Dwayne Roloson once again quietly made plenty of noise, stopping 35 shots, including 26 in the first two periods while Tampa Bay had to kill six power plays against. Teddy Purcell added a pair of assists, setting up the go-ahead goal in the third and the winning goal in overtime.
Defenseman Randy Jones, in for the injured Kubina, sprung Purcell with a long outlet pass before Purcell, who has seven assists in the playoffs, slipped the puck to Lecavalier along on the right wing side for his fourth goal of the postseason and his 22nd career playoff goal.
"I came on to the ice and I saw that Teddy was going to get the loose puck, so I was just hoping he would get the puck by the defenseman, and he did,'' Lecavalier said. "I was trying to go high on (goaltender Michal Neuvirth). He got me last game when I tried to go through his legs, and he's so good down low, I felt if I could put it high I might have a chance and it went in.''
For Lecavalier it was his second goal of the game, having notched a power-play goal with 56.5 seconds left in the first period, and his second career overtime winner in Washington, his other coming with a power-play goal in Game 3 of a first-round series on April 15, 2003.
St. Louis, meanwhile, snapped a three-game scoring drought, and helped make up for a nearly costly mistake in the second period. With Tampa Bay on its heels and being outshot 16-3 in the second period, the Lightning's top line of Steven Stamkos, Lecavalier and St. Louis was hemmed in for more than 90 seconds, with two failed chances to get the puck in deep.
The second turnover came as St. Louis, who carried the puck out of the zone, couldn't get to the center ice red line and lost the puck as the rest of the team tried to change. Instead, Nicklas Backstrom cut to the middle and put a puck on net that Brooks Laich knocked out of midair to tie the game with 5:08 left in the first.
"I was dead tired trying to get to the red line, and they did a good job of not giving it to me while realizing that we were tired,'' St. Louis said. "Obviously I would like to have that play back, but it's hockey and you have to go play."
St. Louis got it back in the third, after Purcell stripped Backstrom of the puck and fed St. Louis, who had his pass attempt for Lecavalier bank in off the skate of Washington defenseman Mike Green 7:35 into the third.
And though Washington eventually tied the game on an Alex Ovechkin goal with 68 seconds left in the third, Tampa Bay regrouped during the intermission and Lecavalier helped pull out the dramatic victory, the Lightning's first overtime victory since Game 6 against Calgary in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals.
"Our big guys stepped it up,'' Stamkos said. "Marty and Vinny played great, and Teddy made some great plays to set up the goal. It seems like we're having someone step up every game and that's why we're having success.''