Breakout for Vinny

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

 One of the Montreal Canadiens' major worries going into their series against Tampa Bay was that Vincent Lecavalier would be motivated.

 Those worries were founded. The Montreal native scored twice and made the key play on the third goal as the Lightning breezed past the Canadiens 4-0 in the opening game of the Eastern Conference semi-final at Tampa.

  Lecavalier, who didn't have a point in Tampa Bay's first-round victory over the New York Islanders, was reunited with his favourite linemate last night -- NHL scoring champion Martin St. Louis -- and it didn't take him long to respond.

 Early in the second period, the Lightning got a favourable matchup when coach John Tortorella managed to get the Lecavalier line out against Montreal's second line.

 The Canadiens appeared to be in the midst of a breakout ,but Lecavalier used his size to force a turnover by knocking Mike Ribeiro off the puck.

 'JUST FORECHECKING'

 St. Louis took a pass from Lecavalier and sent it to Ruslan Fedotenko in front of the net to beat Jose Theodore.

 Seconds earlier, Theodore had lost his stick and, although he picked it up, couldn't get fully repositioned.

 "I was just forechecking,'' Lecavalier said. "I had just picked it loose and then Martin came and made a great pass to Feds and he put it in."

 The second Tampa Bay goal, coming about 14 minutes later, was also a Lecavalier-St. Louis creation. This time, St. Louis took a shot from the blueline and Lecavalier, cruising through the hash marks, redirected it past Theodore.

 In the third period, Lecavalier, who turned 24 on Wednesday, swept in on the puck in the corner, danced around Patrice Brisebois and snapped his shot in the net before Theodore could react.

 It was a play Lecavalier admitted he might not have tried had the game been scoreless.

 "When you feel confident you play with more instinct," he said. "And when the game is played with instinct good things happen. After the first goal, I was feeling a little more loose."

 Lecavalier would not disguise the fact that his opening-round blanking bothered him.

 "It did,'' he said. "Not having a point in the series and now playing against Montreal, I knew people would be talking about it. I know when I'm playing well and when I don't. And in the first series I think I played well but nothing happened."

 At that point, the game was as good as over but the Lightning didn't relax -- which is more that could be said about the Canadiens.

 Taking a lackadaisical approach to a breakout, the Canadiens turned the puck over and Tim Taylor set up Dimitry Afanasenkov on Theodore's doorstep to make it 4-0.

 Shortly afterward, Julien took pity on his beleaguered goalie and sent in Mathieu Garon.

 Canadiens captain Saku Koivu made no excuses.

 "You have to be honest and fair,'' he said. "I think they played well and they were first on the puck all night.

 "It seemed that we weren't sharp and we turned the puck over way too many times. We didn't use our strengths that we used in the first round. We have to get back to our style."

 They will get their chance in Game 2 tomorrow (4 p.m.), again in Tampa.


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