TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The smallest guy on the ice came up big again
for Tampa Bay.
Martin St. Louis, listed generously at 5-foot-9, 181 pounds, had
a goal and an assist Friday night as the Lightning beat the
Washington Capitals 2-1 to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round
"He's got the heart of a 6-foot-6 guy. You know what the
players think of a guy like that,'' teammate Brad Lukowich said
after Tampa Bay's third straight victory in the best-of-seven
Eastern Conference matchup.
"He's invaluable. We don't look at him as a small guy. The way
he plays, he has a big man's game.''
St. Louis, a first-time All-Star this season, has teamed with
Vincent Lecavalier and Vinny Prospal to score Tampa Bay's last nine
goals -- all four in Game 3, all three in Game 4 and both Friday
The Lightning, once a doormat franchise making its first
postseason appearance in seven years, can win a series for the
first time in the team's 11-season history by taking Game 6 Sunday
Game 7 would be here Tuesday night.
"Obviously we're on a little high right now,'' St. Louis said.
"You've got to calm down quick, because Sunday is going to come
very fast. This is as big a win as anything experienced here. But
there's a bigger one coming. That's the most important one.''
St. Louis, who has four goals and three assists in the last
three games, scored off a perfect pass from defenseman Stan Neckar
to put the Lightning ahead for good with 8:07 remaining.
Prospal, assisted by St. Louis, scored in the first period.
Nikolai Khabibulin had 22 saves as Tampa Bay became the first home
team to win in the series and pushed the Capitals to brink of yet
another postseason collapse.
Washington, which won the first two games, has blown a two-game
lead in the playoffs three times since 1992. Goaltender Olaf Kolzig
is 1-4 in postseason games when the Capitals face elimination.
"It's very frustrating. But at the same time, we've got to stay
positive. This group of guys can win games,'' Capitals right wing
Dainius Zubrus said. "I have all the confidence in everybody here
that we can win two more games and move on.''
The third-seeded Lightning were all but counted out after losing
the first two games at home. But the Southeast Division champions
regrouped to win Games 3 and 4 in Washington, and played so well on
the road trip that coach John Tortorella tried to maintain the
momentum by keeping the night-before-game road routine.
So, the Lightning stayed at a hotel Thursday night instead of
sleeping in their own beds. What effect that had is open to debate;
however Tortorella is not one to tinker when things are going well.
Tampa Bay led 1-0 despite getting off only three shots in the
opening period -- none in the first 12 minutes.
The Capitals were 0-for-4 on the power play, but broke through
against Khabibulin when Michael Nylander scored off a pass from
Jaromir Jagr 1-1 late in the second period.
The sixth-seeded Capitals managed only five shots in the third
period, though, and Khabibulin made his biggest stop when he
rejected Sergei Berezin's shot with under a minute left.
Tampa Bay scored its first goal by taking advantage of a
four-minute penalty on Kolzig for high-sticking Lecavalier after
the goaltender accidently hit the Tampa Bay center in the face
after clearing the puck from behind the net.
Washington coach Bruce Cassidy said it shouldn't have been a
"Rule 61, page 122 says that if a player shoots, he's allowed a
windup or follow-through. On accidental contact, it's no penalty,''
"It's a call that, to me, a referee didn't know the rule, and
that frustrates you. Judgment calls you have to live with, you move
on. ... But that's a rule that's in the rule book and the referee
should know that rule. It's automatic and there should be no
The Capitals killed the first half of the penalty, but the
persistent Lightning eventually made them pay. St. Louis fed
Prospal, who scored with 6:08 left in the opening period.
It was the first lead by a home team in the series.
The power-play goal was just the second in 19 opportunities for
the Lightning, who were 1-for-3 in those situations Friday night.
The Lightning are trying to become the 22nd team since 1990
to overcome a two-game deficit to win a best-of-seven series. ...
Lightning defenseman Jassen Cullimore received 70 stitches in the
lower lip and chin after being checked by Zubrus in the final
minute. ... Tampa Bay LW Andre Roy was a healthy scratch. He didn't
make the trip to Washington for Games 3 and 4 after his postwhistle
roughing penalty led to a Capitals power-play goal in Game 2. ...
Returning home for Game 6 may not be good for the Capitals:
Washington has lost nine of its last 11 home playoff games.