Lecavalier a scrappy centreman

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:18 PM ET


 It seemed like a good idea at the time. Lightning coach John Tortorella sure thought so, givin'er the ol' fist pump, hand clap and an "effen eh" once the dust had settled.

 One of his biggest stars, Vincent Lecavalier, had just engaged Jarome Iginla in a first-period scrap and did a darn good job holdin' his own for a kid who rarely fights.

 Obviously trying to take a lead from Iginla himself, Lecavalier's all-world effort two nights earlier had everything to do with a physical presence he established on the opening shift. He was rightfully applauded for coming of age when his team needed him most.

 Perhaps in his mind, a fight with the player he's trying to emulate would again allow his teammates to feed off his intensity, his grittiness, his stones.

 Thing is, shortly after his five-minute penalty was finished, so was Vinny.

 He made like Hulk Hogan's hair and disappeared, as he's been known to do roughly a third of the time he laces up the blades.

 The only time he really contributed to the game was late in the second when he made a foolish centring pass from behind the Flames net that gave Shean Donovan a two-on-one break he scored on.

 When all was said and done, the only thing Lecavalier's fight did was wake up Iginla.

 As he's done so brilliantly throughout his career, Iginla parlayed the early first-period tussle into a motivator -- jawing at everyone on the ice and setting the type of tone Lecavalier was striving for.

 By night's end, the Flames captain had the ol' Gordie Howe hat-trick in an important 3-0 win.

 In the second period, it was Iginla who made a nifty pass to set up Chris Simon's game-winner. His goal late in the third sent 19,221 heading towards the Red Mile for a party the city won't soon forget.

 That said, full marks to the gifted Lightning centre for initiating a fight that could easily have worked in his club's favour. If he had followed it up, that is.

 "That's part of the game," said Tortorella, dismissing the novelty of his star fighting another star. "Two of the best players in the game going at it. There's nothing wrong with that."

 The tussle originated behind Calgary's net, where the 6-ft. 4-in., 210-lb. Frenchman punctuated a battle for the puck by swatting the Hart nominee in the face. Lecavalier surprised Iginla by dropping his mitts first and throwing rights. Iginla was only too happy to return the favour.

 Doing well to protect himself, Lecavalier even got a few good licks in. He eventually lost his balance and was hammered onto his back by Iginla, who delivered a lovely parting gift as Lecavalier toppled over.

 "The fight is just a part of the intensity out there, everybody knows what's on the line," said Iginla. "They raised their game physically last game and I thought tonight we really upped it as a group physically and the fight just kind of happened."

 While Tortorella celebrated on the bench, the two stars skated to the penalty box without exchanging glances or discourse. Iginla typically finishes his fights with a bit of jawing but clearly understood what Lecavalier's intentions were and undoubtedly gained newfound respect for his talented opponent.

 A handful of years earlier, a young Iginla was bloodied by Brendan Shanahan in an effort to make a similar statement. Iginla not only picked up a few stitches that night, he also came back to score twice and add an assist in a comeback victory.

 Iginla had arrived.

 With an nation watching Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, there would be no similar response from Lecavalier.

 With his skills and size, it's only a matter of time before Lecavalier emerges as a perennial top-10 scorer. Last night, he failed to follow through with a complete effort and the Flames -- not the Lightning -- benefited.

 And because of it, the pressure will again be on him to respond in Game 4 the way Iginla has all spring.


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