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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Times change, but Lecavalier still a keeper

Something strange is about to happen. Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis are playoff bound. They might even face each other. And not one of them is on the Lightning.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Lecavalier said. “You never thought of that five years ago. Or even last year. Obviously, Marty going this year is kind of a shock, for me and a lot of people. ... Times and things change.”

Lecavalier and the Flyers were in town to play Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Vinny was back, again. As special as that will always be, it wasn’t quite like in November, Lecavalier’s emotional first trip to the Forum since the Lightning bought him out and he signed with Philadelphia.

Thursday was two teams battling for postseason positioning and home ice. Dead ahead for the Flyers could be the Rangers — Vinny against Marty and Richy. The Lightning will meet the Montreal Canadiens, which brings back all sorts of feelings for Lecavalier, from 10 years ago, that Lightning run to the Stanley Cup.

“Those were memorable moments,” Lecavalier said.

It was the second round of the 2004 playoffs, the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Lightning, still being doubted, faced the Canadiens, all that history, all that Cup lifting, all those legends and ghosts. Best of seven.

The Lightning swept.

There are Lightning players about to take the ice in playoff season in Montreal. It’s about as special as it gets. It was that way for Lecavalier 10 years ago. He was 24, a kid from the Montreal suburbs, about to play the Habs. It was special for all the Bolts.

“There was nothing like it,” Lecavalier said. “I think they beat Boston in seven (in the first round). They came back from 3-1 or something like that. My whole body got overheated. Excitement. I’m from there, but anybody, when you think about the Montreal Canadiens and the history, it’s special.”

Vinny tore the Canadiens and that series to pieces. He scored twice and added an assist in a 4-0 Lightning win in Game 1 at the Forum. He added two more goals in a Game 2 victory.

And then there was April 27, 2004.

There were 17 seconds left in the third period in Game 3 at Montreal. The Canadiens were up 3-2 and about to crawl back into the series. There were 21,000 fans making bedlam.

Dave Andreychuk won a faceoff in the Montreal end. He got it to Pavel Kubina, who sent it to St. Louis, who dished back to Andreychuk, who threw it toward Lecavalier, parked near Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore. Here’s how Vinny remembered it after the game:

“I know I couldn’t get the puck, so I kind of just put the stick between my legs to touch it. Luckily, it went in.”

It tied the game. Stunning. Richards won it in overtime. Two nights later, the Lightning swept. Five weeks later, they lifted Stanley.

Vinny, between the legs, a snapshot for Lightning history.

“They used to have a big picture of it on the wall,” Lecavalier said. “I don’t know if it’s still up.”

It isn’t.

It’s 10 years later.

Richards was traded in February 2008. Lecavalier was bought out by the Lightning in June. St. Louis was traded to the Rangers and reunited with Richards early last month.

No matter.

“When you win with somebody, you never forget that,” Lecavalier said. “Nobody can take it away from that ’04 team.”

His first season with the Flyers has been up-down. Lecavalier, who turns 34 later this month, battled an aching back. He was moved from center to left wing and struggled with the adjustment.

Vinny is back at center. He says his back is fine. The other night, he scored his 20th goal — his 13th 20-goal season in the NHL. There have been other milestones: his 500th assist, his 900th point. Late last month, he scored his 400th goal. Going into Thursday, Lecavalier had consecutive multipoint games for the first time as a Flyer.

Back to the Marty trade ...

“It was definitely weird,” Lecavalier said. “I remember texting Brad and saying imagine if this goes through — he’s the last guy.”

The last Lightning link to the ’04 team.

Times and things change.

Vinny, between the legs, lives.

“I’ve always wanted that picture of me,” Lecavalier said.

It’s a keeper, now and forever.

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