Mario makes 'em sweat
Youngsters just can't pass up Lemieux when he's on the ice
By CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun
Everybody in the building knew what he was going to do.
Vincent Lecavalier knew.
Mario Lemieux knew.
Team USA goaltender Robert Esche and defenceman Eric Weinrich appeared to know, too.
"I was looking to pass it to him the whole way," said Lecavalier of his 2-on-1 with Lemieux in the second period of what turned out to be Canada's 3-1 win over the USA last night at a sold-out Corel Centre.
"I was thinking pass until it was too late. Then I was at the crease and it was like, 'Shoot. Do something.'
"Even at the last second, I was trying to pass it to him."
For a kid like Lecavalier, it's almost a law he has to pass the puck to Lemieux.
He tried ... and tried.
Lecavalier wound up slipping the puck under Esche when he ran out of room and time, good for a 1-0 Canada lead as Team Canada rebounded from Monday night's loss to the Americans.
"He was trying to pass until the last second," said Lemieux, playing his first game in 10 months and getting better and better as the game went on. "Weinrich came over and the goalie was cheating. The last thing I want him to do is force a play that's not there. I want them to play like they do on their own teams. They have talent. That's why they're here."
The Lecavalier play points out the hurdles of having Lemieux play with kids like Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards. Lemieux makes them nervous.
"It's really intimidating," said Lecavalier. "It's nerve-wracking. It's in my head before I get the puck, 'pass it to Mario.' Maybe it's not the right play."
Lecavalier said the exhibition games will hopefully get them over the intimidation factor. He and Lemieux even had a laugh after the goal.
"He knew I wanted to pass," said Lecavalier, "and I told him, 'I was trying to get it to you.' "
HEAR AND THERE: Interesting what goes on during a game. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spent much of the second period in the back of his suite, clicking away one of those wireless handhelds. Maybe he was exchanging proposals with NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow (we hope). Maybe he was working on his blog. Maybe he was getting wireless updates on the game he wasn't watching. He did pop out and watch the third period ... The Canadians did a much better job of keeping their shifts short last night, especially while protecting the lead in the third.
REVELATIONS: It looks like the Americans lost defenceman Hal Gill for the tournament with a broken foot. The Americans are already down on the blue line after losing Jordan Leopold with a concussion Monday. They replaced Leopold with Paul Martin. Who's next on the American depth chart? Stephen Harper or Tom Poti? ... Lemieux said he felt better as the game went on last night. "It was a little tough getting used to the speed again," he said. "I started seeing the play pretty well in the second and third."... The clock still said 0-0 after Canada scored a pair of second-period goals. Hey, it's pre-season for everybody, okay? ... One area the Canadians were overmatched in their first game with the Americans was in the physical department. Canadian defenceman Ed Jovanovski tried to change that in the first period, taking a nice run at the USA's Keith Tkachuk outside the Canadian line. Tkachuk, whose vision is very good, saw him coming. Jovo got only 48% of him.
SPECULATIONS: The Montreal Canadiens are expected to promote Doug Jarvis from their Hamilton farm club of the American Hockey League to replace Guy Charron, who has moved on to join the staff of Jacques Martin in Florida ... You need players who are going to make the little plays to win. After Canada's Joe Thornton gave the puck away in the first period, Brenden Morrow dove and blocked the resulting shot ... There's an American helping the Canadian side, again. It's Tom Plasko, a massage therapist from Carnegie, Pa., who's worked with Lemieux for years. He was in Salt Lake at the Olympics with Team Canada, too.
BETWEEN WHISTLES: Senators winger Marian Hossa arrived at the University of Ottawa late yesterday afternoon with his Slovakian teammates. He'll take to the ice Saturday night as a member of the opposition in an exhibition game against Team Canada. What kind of reception does he expect? "A good one, I hope," he said. "The people here are great. They know hockey. They know the game." Nice job of buttering them up, Marian.
JUST WONDERING: Guess it wouldn't be a game at the Corel Centre without a "Leafs suck" chant, huh?
LEMME SAY THIS ABOUT THAT: The most noticeable defenceman for Team Canada last night (for good reasons) was 20-year-old Jay Boumeester. How often do you see an NHL defenceman take the puck these days, make a couple of moves and gain the opposition blue line? He did that. How often do you see a D-man catch somebody with a big hip check along the boards? He did that, too. There were also a couple of very crisp exit passes ... A sold-out Corel Centre last night proved Hockey Canada made a good decision bringing Team Canada's training camp here. Maybe next time around -- whenever that is -- Ottawa could get a real Team Canada tournament game. The fans here proved they deserve it.
PARTING SHOT: Spotted wandering into the Corel Centre last night: Renegades offensive linemen Val St. Germain and Chris Burns. I looked, but there weren't a bunch of Hamilton Tiger-Cats behind them.