By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
Saturday, February 2, 2013
TAMPA — Vinny Lecavalier did not have much information to impart after Saturday night's 3-2 loss to the Rangers.
"We're gonna know more (today)," the Lightning captain wrote in a text message.
Head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said the team is "optimistic" Lecavalier is not as badly hurt as it seemed but more would be known today.
There was only a fleeting glimpse of the center outside the locker room, but the bag of ice around his left foot and pronounced limp as he entered the trainers room told a grim-looking story.
Lecavalier, such a big part of the Lightning's 6-2-0 start, collapsed face-down with about one second left in the third period when hit by teammate Sami Salo's heavy slap shot from the blue line.
He skated slowly off the ice, several times doubling over in obvious pain.
He had X-rays. The team said he "was being evaluated" and will be again today. Losing Lecavalier would be a huge blow. He has four goals, 11 points and a team-best 24 hits.
That was quite a way to end what otherwise was a terrific seasonlong five-game homestand that ended 4-1-0 and was played in front of sellout crowds of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The loss stopped the Lightning's five-game winning streak and its team-record nine-game home winning streak that began with four wins at the end of 2011-12.
In the second of back-to-back games and facing backup goalie Martin Biron, Tampa Bay's players seemed just a step behind. Passes were inches off, and scoring chances weren't converted.
"I think that's a back-door excuse," center Steven Stamkos said of back-to-back games, "especially when you're at home."
Stamkos scored twice for a team-best seven goals, including one on a second-period power play for a 1-0 lead.
But goals by Derek Stepan in the second and Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin in the third gave New York a 3-1 lead with 5:13 remaining.
Nash raced around defenseman Victor Hedman and deked to the forehand to beat goaltender Mathieu Garon. Hagelin got behind the defense and poked Taylor Pyatt's pass through Garon's legs.
"I didn't want to leave a rebound," said the goalie, making just his second start, "so I opened up my stick to tip it, and at the last second he touched it."
Stamkos made it 3-2 with 21 seconds left with a blast from the left faceoff circle. But instead of setting up a thrilling ending, it created a scary moment.
Asked how his center was doing, coach Guy Boucher said, "I'll check."
We will know today what he found out.
First Period—None. Penalties—None.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 6 (Carle, St. Louis), 4:22 (pp). 2, N.Y. Rangers, Stepan 1 (Ta.Pyatt, Hagelin), 9:50. Penalties—Bickel, NYR (hooking), 3:16; Stamkos, TB (hooking), 7:42; Brewer, TB (interference), 19:14.
Third Period—3, N.Y. Rangers, Nash 2 (Richards, Staal), 3:04. 4, N.Y. Rangers, Hagelin 1 (Ta.Pyatt), 14:47. 5, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 7 (Carle, Malone), 19:39. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—N.Y. Rangers 11-15-4—30. Tampa Bay 8-9-15—32. Power-play opportunities—N.Y. Rangers 0 of 2; Tampa Bay 1 of 1. Goalies—N.Y. Rangers, Biron 1-0-0 (32 shots-30 saves). Tampa Bay, Garon 1-1-0 (30-27). A—19,204 (19,204).