PITTSBURGH - With three chipped teeth and another big one resting on his shoulder, Martin St. Louis showed the kids on the Tampa Bay Lightning what playoff hockey is all about.
Undaunted by a Game 1 loss that forced St. Louis to have a midnight root canal on two teeth and a third one pulled, the Lightning bounced back in a big way Friday night with a 5-1 smackdown of the Penguins.
St. Louisí goal with just 14 seconds remaining in a second period that had been dominated by the Penguins was the backbreaker a big emotional boost for a team that had been blanked 3-0 just 48 hours earlier and now returns home with the series locked at 1-1.
ďItís teeth, itís not a shoulder, itís not a knee,Ē said St. Louis, who continues to play much bigger than his 5-foot-7 frame. ďNo big deal. My motivation is we were down 1-0. Itís not because I lose teeth.
ďIf you are going to expect to go far in the playoffs, you have to expect to be hurt.Ē
As much as every road team in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs has said they would gladly take a split in the opening two, the Lightning made a huge statement with this one.
A team that couldnít buy a goal against Marc-Andre Fleury in the curtain raiser scored on the power-play, shorthanded and on a four-on-four situation. The big guns who had been so quiet earlier, suddenly made their presence felt and add a goal and two assists by defenceman Eric Brewer and it was a complete and thorough victory.
Without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, Game 2 showed what should have been obvious - put the Penguins in a big hole and the threat of a big comeback with the remaining personnel isnít nearly so severe.
Though they said all the right things in the aftermath of their loss Wednesday - praising Fleury, questioning the penalty count and saying their first-time playoff participants might have been intimidated - the truth is the Lightning didnít lose an ounce of confidence in the next 48 hours.
Instead, rookie NHL coach Guy Boucher behaved like a seasoned veteran both tactically and psychologically making adjustments. The results spoke for themselves.
While the big Lightning scorers were stuck on the perimeter for too much of Game 1, Round 2 saw an emphasis on fighting inside. As spectacular as Fleury was on Wednesday, he was barely pressured all night.
And someone as studious as Boucher surely hammered home the point that the former No. 1 overall pick has struggled with inconsistency in playoffs past.
It certainly wasnít a rousing start to the night for Fleury, who was beaten high to the glove side by Brewer, and momentum left the Consol Energy Center in a gust.
Less than five minutes later, the Lightning big guns checked into the series. Vincent Lecavalier got the power-play goal from in tight but it was St. Louis who did much of the work in the corner to set it up for his first point of the series. Another goal by Nate Thompson late in the opening period only deepened the hole.
That fat of a lead allowed Tampa to get away with a shoddy middle period that included a badly misplayed puck by Dwayne Roloson leading to Craig Adams scoring the lone Pittsburgh goal.
As grumpy as he might have been in the aftermath of his facial re-arrangement by the stick of Pittsburgh defenceman Zbynek Michalek, St. Louis has to be an inspiration for this hard-fighting team.
Though there are nine playoff rookies in the Lightning lineup, the 35-year-old more than makes up for it from his franchise leading 50 points in 47 career playoff games to his big role in the Lightning 2004 Stanley Cup victory.
ďI didnít think three teeth would hold him off,Ē fellow Lightning veteran Lecavalier said of St. Louis. ďHe came out and played hard, just as we would have expected.Ē