Gretzky has share in blame

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:23 PM ET


 TAMPA, Florida -- Team Canada cost Canada's Team.

 With Wayne Gretzky sitting in the stands, Brad Richards showed the world why The Great One picked him to play for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey and Vinnie Lecavalier rubbed it in for No. 99 not picking him to Canada's dream team.

 You ask Darryl Sutter and first and foremost it was Lecavalier who did in the Calgary Flames as the Tampa Bay Lightning struck for a 4-1 win to even the series at 1-1 before 22,222 here and a capacity crowd watching the game on the big screen in the Saddledome back in Calgary.

 "He followed Jarome's lead from the other night,'' Sutter said of the game his captain Iginla gave the Flames to take a 1-0 series lead Tuesday.

 But it was Richards, the kid from Murray Harbour, P.E.I., who seems to be the Iginla of this group.

 As Richards goes, so goes Tampa Bay.

 The Lightning are now 29-0-2 when he's scored this season - now 7-0 when he scores in the playoffs.

 SKILL, NOT WILL, WON THIS ONE

 Skill, as opposed to will, squared the Stanley Cup final series at a game each here and Richards tied Joe Sakic and Joe Nieuwendyk with his sixth game-winning goal of this Stanley Cup season.

 Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Richards all showed up here last night and showed the world what exactly Tampa Bay is doing in this final.

 Richards said he didn't know Gretzky was in the building until he saw him on the scoreboard in the second period. His winner came in the third.

 "I don't think whether he picks you or not, when Wayne Gretzky is in the stands, it's fun to play in front of him,'' he said.

 "I didn't really notice until he was up on the big screen. To see him there was pretty neat. We're in the Stanley Cup finals so I don't think you need him to motivate yourself. But it's special when he's here.''

 Lecavalier had a little more trouble with the question.

 "It's a shame. I hoped to be selected. I just try to do my best. It's a tough question to answer. I'm concentrating to win the Stanley Cup, I'm not thinking to win the World Cup, but ...''

 Whatever happened here last night, it was a continuation of the same story this post season.

 Remember when the Stanley Cup playoffs used to be considered a marathon? Now it's become a series of sprints. First team to one wins. This is getting ridiculous.

 The Flames lit the lamp first to go 11-1 when scoring the first goal of the game this Stanley season in Game 1. The Lightning scored first last night to go 11-2 when opening the scoring in the playoffs.

 The initial marker in this one was the kind of inspired goal Gretzky used to create.

 Behind the net, Lecavalier passed the puck off the back of the net back to himself then fired it out to the point. Jassen Cullimore fired it at the net where Ruslan Fedotenko deposited his 10th of the season.

 That goal, especially with its Gretzky flair, was the Play of the Day.

 "He made a great play on that first goal and did it against our best checking centreman. He beat him behind the net. And he was a physical player, too,'' said Sutter.

 Lightning coach John Tortorella said Lecavalier is still a work in progress. But a game like this proves how he is making progress.

 "Vinnie is a talented player. It's not the moves I thought was the most important part of his game tonight. I thought his presence was the most important thing. I thought he showed a physical presence.

 "You look at him maturing, trying to show his team, 'follow me.'

 "The moves, that's talent. The presence he showed tonight I thought was very important for our club.''

 Lecavalier said he didn't go out there trying to answer Iginla's Game 1.

 "It doesn't matter who people talk about,'' he said. "Jarome is a great player and he's proven himself in the league and in the playoffs. He's been phenomenal for Calgary. He plays hard every single night. I just play my game and it doesn't really matter what people say or whatever. I just try to help my team as much as I can.''

 ON A NICE RUN

 Lecavalier, you should know, has helped to the extent that he's scored 15 points in the last 13 games.

 As was the case with not picking Keith Primeau, Gretzky left himself open for second guessing the way the Philadelphia Flyers captain played in the previous series. It was the same way Lecavalier played here last night. But Gretzky did pick Richards and Martin St. Louis to play for Canada in the September series, so he came out OK on the day.

 St. Louis created the play in which Richards scored to make it 2-0 in the third period. Richards made a perfect pass to Dan Boyle to make it 3-0 and Richards set up St.Louis to take it to 4-0 as the Lightning lit up Miikka Kiprusoff for three in the third period before Ville Nieminen managed one for Calgary after a small fight card was staged.

 Richards didn't know what to say about equalling the record with his seventh game winner.

 "My only thought is that it's good,'' he said. "You score goals you hope are big goals.''


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