The celebration was especially exuberant Sunday after the Lightning forward roofed a shot past Manny Fernandez with 1:33 left to beat Boston Bruins, the top team in the Eastern Conference, 4-3 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
In a tough season, filled with injuries and gut-wrenching one-goal losses, it was night for the Lightning to smile and display the amount of fight they have left.
“We have the logo on our jersey and our name on the back and we’re all playing for something,” Prospal said. “We’re all professionals and we have to show up for us, our fans and for whoever else is in this locker room. If a team like [Boston] coming into our building wasn’t a challenge for us, we should get a new job.”
Prospal scored his second goal in two games and posted his fourth point in the last four games as the Lightning headed to northwest Canada for three games this week. Normally a left wing, Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet moved Prospal to center for a few games and he has played some right wing as well, including against the Bruins.
“[Tocchet] talked to me and said they wanted to try and shuffle the lines around,” Prospal said. “I haven’t played the right side much over the years. But hopefully, I can be able to play anywhere to help the team win.”
Prospal said he has found himself leaning toward the left side at times, but he was in the right spot for the winner Sunday. Halpern turned with the puck in the right corner a whipped a pass through a Bruins player and Lightning wing Marty St. Louis’ legs to Prospal, who quickly converted on the power play.
“Most of the goals in his career are off give and goes or when he’s going to net and getting to rebounds,” Tocchet said. “When he does that, that’s when he’s at his best.”
If he hadn’t already, Prospal had a few words for Halpern, who was sitting and talking to reporters a half hour after the game.
“Nice pass Halpy,” Prospal said.
It has not been the type of season Prospal had hoped for statistically and in the standings, though he still has 15 goals and 38 points, and is likely to reach 50 points for the eighth time in his career. He is six goals short of 200 in his career, two short of 400 assists and eight short of 600 points.
“Vinny works hard every game and he works hard off the ice,” Halpern said. “Like anyone, he wants to contribute and it’s great to see him have success.”
It’s rare when Prospal doesn’t come to the rink with a smile on his face, even during this tough season. There is still a lot of work left. There is still something to accomplish. Prospal said you just have to take them one game at a time and make the best.
“It’s been that kind of year,” Prospal said. “There have been a lot of games where we have played good as a group or I’ve played well and the points aren’t coming. You can’t just continue to think about it. You just put your head down and go.”