Practice pays off for Kubina

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

It was a scenario Pavel Kubina had seen over and over again throughout the years.

During his eight seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the veteran defenceman lost count of how many times Martin St. Louis came blazing in on him during line rush drills at practice.

Last night, with the Maple Leafs nursing a one-goal lead in the game's final minute, here came the diminutive St. Louis in again at Kubina, his former teammate.

This time, however, it was for keeps.

If St. Louis got by Kubina, he would have a clear path to Leafs goaltender Andrew Raycroft.

Kubina knew there was only one thing to do -- make a desparate lunge and hope to chip the puck away before the Lightning superstar whizzed past him.

He did exactly that, knocking St. Louis down to the ice in the process.

Was it a penalty? Or did the Maple Leafs defenceman hit the puck first before St. Louis's legs got tripped up by Kubina's stick?

The referees agreed with the latter assessment and kept their whistles in their pockets, a key moment that helped the Leafs preserve their 3-2 victory over the visiting Lightning at the Air Canada Centre.

"I don't know if it was a penalty or not," St. Louis said of Kubina's gave-saving effort. "I was just trying to get to the net. What can you do?"

Lightning coach John Tortorella, known for pushing Kubina hard during their days together in Tampa, gave his former player credit for his last-second dive.

"It was a helluva play (by Kubina)," Tortorella said. "He hit the puck first. I've seen it called a penalty before but that's how I saw it."

Kubina, the game's unsung hero, reluctantly accepted praise.

"(St. Louis) has unbelievable speed through the neutral zone," he said. "I dove and got the puck first.

"When he's coming in on you like that, you have to act fast."

Obviously practice makes perfect for Kubina -- at least in this instance anyway.


Videos

Photos