BUFFALO – Vinny Lecavalier hasn’t gone through this long of a drought without finding the back of the net since he was a 19-year old rookie – back when it was still the 20th Century.
So when he scored the game-winning goal of the Flyers dramatic 4-3 win over the Sabres Tuesday in the final seconds, it was as if the weight of his entire career to that point had been lifted off his shoulders.
(Read the full game recap here)
It didn’t come easy, but then again, when you are trying to snap out of a prolonged slump, one you haven’t experienced since Prince was partying like it was 1999, it never does.
A shot by Kimmo Timonen was partially blocked. Lecavalier saw the loose puck and shot it himself, only to have it deflected by Jhonas Enroth, in one of a bevy of saves made by the Sabres backup goalie that left the Flyers perplexed.
However, with Enroth down and out, Sean Couturier had a chance to flip it home from a tough angle, but hit the side of the net.
Matt Read, playing in his first game of the New Year after missing six straight with concussion-like symptoms had the
|Vinny Lecavalier was all smiles after snapping a 13-game goalless drought and helping the Flyers to a win in Buffalo. |
presence of mind to dig out the loose puck and find Lecavalier locked and loaded for another shot from his sweet spot on the ice – top of the circle.
With Enroth slow to recover, Lecavalier ticketed this shot top corner and didn’t miss. As the clock froze with 14.8 seconds remaining and the scoreboard in the First Niagara Center was flipping over the score to 4-3, Lecavalier took a second to let out a celebratory yawp that has been building for weeks.
After all, his last goal came when he returned home to Tampa for the first time on the eve of Thanksgiving. He played the next two games before missing nine straight with a fracture in his lower back.
He returned earlier than expected, on December 21, but he wasn’t yet 100 percent, and really, didn’t start to feel himself again until the Flyers returned home from their post-Christmas trip on January 8.
And although he had three assists in the previous five games and started to look a little bit like himself again, scoring a goal was as elusive as it had ever been.
So to get this one, and have it be such a huge goal for the Flyers as well, was just that much more special.
“It felt good,” Lecavalier said. “Goals have been hard to come by. Sometimes a goal like that will give you more confidence and you keep going. It was huge for the team. It probably wasn’t our best game, but we came back again and we show a lot of will and confidence in our play in the third period.
“The last four games I’ve been feeling really good and had my legs. Hopefully this will get me going and I’ll get more opportunities with my line mates and we’ll start a better streak.”
It’s important for Lecavalier to get back in the swing of things, for when he does, the Flyers are three lines deep with offensive talent, which is why they never really seem to be out of a game.
“Skilled guys when they’re not scoring, they lose their confidence,” coach Craig Berube said. “They thrive on that stuff. Hopefully that’ll get him going. Nobody ever questioned his effort. He’s been working. Sometimes it doesn’t go in but you have to stick with it. He’s kept working and tonight he scored a big goal for us.”
At one time Lecavalier was the Flyers leading goal scorer, now, he’s seventh on the team in that category, but he’s also the seventh Flyer to reach double digits in goals this season, something only one other team has done – surprisingly it’s the Winnipeg Jets.
Thanks to Lecavalier’s last second heroics, the Flyers avoided losing three straight games for the first time since mid-October and also tied the Capitals for the second-most points in the Metropolitan Division (52) although the Caps technically still are ahead of them because of a game in hand. However, the Flyers did leapfrog the Rangers in a standings shuffle that is sure to have several permutations and combinations the rest of the season.
“Every point is important, but especially after two losses you want to get two points,” Lecavalier said. “You got to make sure you get those points no matter who you play or where they are in the standings. You can’t think the two points are automatic. It’s hard to get two points in this league against any team.”
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