CHICAGO – Almost everything went right for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night at the United Center, but the one thing that didn't cast a potentially scary shadow on the near future for the team.
Bolts captain Vincent Lecavalier caught a high stick from Chicago Blackhawks forward Michael Frolik early in the second period of Tampa Bay's 2-0 win and didn't return to the game. He didn't address the media afterwards and headed to the bus quickly – but Lightning coach Guy Boucher said he was a little worried about Lecavalier's health.
"I'm always concerned when it's your captain and he's been playing incredible the last two months," Boucher said. "He's been driving physically and been a real inspiration for the players, so yeah, I am a little worried.
"I think there's a little scratch in there. Hopefully just a minor scratch in the eye."
Lecavalier got the eventual game-winning goal on Sunday just eight seconds into a power play at 7:56 of the first period. It was his 21st of the season and 49th point. The Bolts started the game with just 11 forwards with Ryan Malone sitting out for precautionary reasons, which is why Boucher said Lecavalier wanted to return to the game.
The fact he couldn't see out of his eye – which appeared to get clipped by the stick blade – that kept him out. Lecavalier was also cut on the play.
"He wanted to come back," Boucher said. "I was real impressed by him trying to come back. He knew we were shot staffed. First words he said: 'You don't have enough guys. I've got to stay.' (I said), 'You can't see.' So I took him out."
Lecavalier has missed 17 games with injuries this season, including 15 in a row from Nov. 12 to Dec. 15 and Boucher didn't have a concrete update on his captain's health going into the final three games of the regular season.
He's just hoping for good news when he does talk to the team's medical staff about it. Tampa Bay visits Buffalo on Tuesday night.
"I haven't talked to my therapist yet, and I don't want to yet," he said. "Just let everything cool down and hopefully it's better news."
For our team, as a group, we've never been this far before, and so it's just more lessons learned, and sometimes you have to go to the school of hard knocks to find out what works and what doesn't. We've got a young group. They've played some unreal hockey here to get us this far, and we showed if we're not going to play the proper way, a really, really good hockey team is going to beat you, and that's what they did. It's a lesson learned.
— Lightning coach Jon Cooper after Rangers win in Game 6 forced a Game 7 that will be played at Madison Square Garden on Friday