The two veterans have propelled the Tampa Bay Lightning to a commanding lead in this Eastern Conference Semifinal series -- and they have the young stars of the Washington Capitals searching for answers.
Lecavalier scored his second goal of the game 6:19 into overtime Sunday night to give the Lightning a 3-2 victory in Game 2 and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. St. Louis had Tampa Bay's other goal and 41-year-old goaltender Dwayne Roloson made 35 saves.
"It's nice to get the two wins," Lecavalier said. "We know how it went against Pittsburgh. It was the other way around, but we know it's not over until it's over. It's obviously far from being over against a team like Washington. You can't let your guard down. We have to go home and play some good hockey."
Tampa Bay has won five straight games, erasing a 3-1 series deficit against Pittsburgh in the opening round before taking control of this series by opening with two victories at the Verizon Center. The next two games are at St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Caps, who overcame a 2-0 series deficit to beat the Rangers in the opening round two years ago, are far from ready to concede.
"Well, [the] series is not over," Alex Ovechkin said. "We're going there and we're going to win two games. It is going to be hard but right now in this situation we have to win."
Ovechkin tied the game by scoring with 68 seconds left in regulation. But the Lightning caught the Caps in a line change to get the winner.
Randy Jones, playing in his first game since March 7 because of injury and in the lineup because Pavel Kubina was hurt in Game 1, retrieved the puck to the right of Roloson, noticed the Capitals changing and wheeled the puck to the far blue line, where Teddy Purcell was waiting.
Purcell had only defenseman Mike Green in front of him with Lecavalier steaming toward the far post. His pass hit Lecavalier in stride, and the Tampa Bay captain didn't miss, flipping a high shot past Michal Neuvirth.
"They chipped it in and I just looked over my shoulder to see who was coming on me," Jones said. "I know they had one man coming … I saw Teddy coming across the blue line, so I just wanted to get it up to him and get it in deep as quick as possible. He made a great play to Vinny, and he was able to put it in the net."
Added Lecavalier: "I went on the ice, and I saw Teddy Purcell was going to get the loose puck. I was just hoping it would get by the defenseman, and it did. I just tried to get it high. Last game, I tried going between his legs. If I tried to put it high, I'd have a chance."
There were multiple problems on the goal for the Capitals. John Carlson had been on the ice for nearly 90 seconds and needed to change, but the other defenseman, Scott Hannan, also went to the bench despite having been out for only 33 seconds.
A pair of forwards also went to the bench and Green, Jeff Schultz, Brooks Laich and Nicklas Backstrom were the fresh skaters. Green was the first one on and was able to reach Purcell but none of the other three were able to track Lecavalier.
"It was a bad change. I thought the puck was going in behind. You can't make mistakes like that. It will cost you in the playoffs," Hannan said. "I was a little tired and I thought I could get off in time and obviously I couldn't. It was a bad play. ... It is frustrating. It goes to show you in the playoffs if you make mistakes it will cost you. I will take the blame for that. I should have stayed on the ice and it would have been a dead play, a 2-on-2."
Added Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau: "It was a bad change and at the same time the guys coming on didn't come on anywhere near as quick as they should have. It was a combination."
Ovechkin had sent the game to overtime after the Caps pulled Neuvirth for an extra attacker. He drove to the net and chipped a centering pass from Jason Arnott past Roloson to set off a delirious celebration from the red-clad sellout crowd of 18,398.
St. Louis put Tampa Bay in front at 7:35 of the third period. Purcell took the puck away from Backstrom as he was about to skate it out of danger in the Washington end, and then got it to St. Louis. The Hart Trophy finalist was actually trying to feed Lecavalier, who was unchecked at the far post, but the pass went off Green's skate and into the net. St. Louis had gone three games without a point, but before the game coach Guy Boucher said he liked that because he knew the production was coming.
"Teddy made a great play on the forecheck," Lecavalier said. "I put it on net and Teddy went to hunt the puck. He gave it to me and I actually tried to fire it across the crease for Vinny and it hit Green's skate. You take those. It's a great effort by Teddy to hunt the puck down."
St. Louis also set up Lecavalier for the lone goal of the opening period, a power-play laser beam from the right circle at 19:01.
Washington's power play continued to struggle in the second as the Capitals squandered three more chances. But the Caps did dominate the period in part because of the penalties and were able to tie the score at 14:52 when Brooks Laich got his stick on the rebound of a Backstrom shot. The puck bounced off Roloson's chest and across the goal line for Laich's first of the postseason.
It was the highlight of a second period that saw the Caps outshoot Tampa Bay 16-3.
"I thought we had the momentum quite frankly for about 45 minutes of that game, but I felt very comfortable going into overtime rolling four lines and six defensemen if there wasn't any penalties but it didn't work out that way," Boudreau said. "I can sit here and evaluate and say there were bad bounces in both games and that, but they came in here and did the job. They got the lead. I think we only two shots on goal or three shots on goal until we scored."
But the Lightning had the better of play in the third period and took advantage of their opportunity in overtime to score the winner – leaving the Caps without a win after two games at home.
Boudreau knows winning in Tampa – where the St. Pete Times Forum will be filled with more than 20,000 fans – won't be easy.
"We've got to push harder," Boudreau said. "They're playing a very disciplined game right now and they're getting the most mileage out of all of their players. They believe -- they've won five in a row and they're a difficult team to play against."
Martin St. Louis