Friday, January 16, 2009

Lightning Dominate Philly, Lawton Says Team Not Shopping Vinny

By JC De La Torre

Amid the dark clouds descending from the north, Vincent Lecavalier and the Tampa Bay Lightning put together one of their better efforts of the season, dominating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 during their return to the St. Pete Times Forum.

"He is not being traded today. He's not being traded tomorrow. He's not being traded any time soon. This should put everything to rest," Lawton told the Tampa Bay media in a hastily called presser, "Normally our club policy is to not address rumors. Obviously with Vinny Lecavalier's situation, there has been a lot of speculation floating around - completely unfounded, I might add, Vinny Lecavalier is not being shopped by the Tampa Bay Lightning. It would be erroneous of me to say that people haven't called me on Vinny Lecavalier because they certainly have, and that has started literally from the day that I took this position. Why would something like that happen? Because he's a great player." One would hope that Lawton's forked-tongue is not giving us lip service this time around.

The shame is the fiasco has taken away from a pretty solid run by the Lightning, who now have gone 7-4-1 in their last 12.

After a scoreless first, Philadelphia's Joffrey Lupul opened the scoring on the power play at the 5:21 mark of the second. Tampa Bay tied it at the 14:48 mark on a beautiful blast from Martin St. Louis. The goal would start a rare Lightning eruption of offense with three goals in two minutes and three seconds, Andrej Meszaros on the Power Play and Ryan Craig a minute later.

The victory was cemented by Lecavalier who had his stick snapped during a breakaway, setting up a penalty shot at the 12:34 mark of the third. Lecavalier slowed on his approach, deked, and put the puck between Martin Biron's legs for the goal, giving the Bolts an insurmountable 4-1 advantage. Tampa Bay outshot the Flyers 44-34.

"They're a pretty good hockey team with a lot of pride," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said to the St. Pete Times, "They're getting better all the time. They had a lot of desperation in their game tonight."

Still the focus was on the circus surrounding Lecavalier.

"The last four or five days, especially the first two or three days ... I want to say I wasn't distracted, but I was, I think anybody would because these were rumors that had a lot of legs," Lecavalier told the Tampa Tribune, "But it was nice to go out there and play, when you're on the ice, you don't think about what goes on outside the rink."

Even the Lightning's players find the talk of Lecavalier being traded hard to stomach.

"We're all teammates here," Ryan Craig told the St. Petersburg Times, "We don't want to see anyone from our group go, especially our leader and captain."

"To even think about trading a guy like that, I don't know," added Goalie Mike Smith, ""You don't like to hear rumors that go on, and obviously it's going to happen. The good teams don't worry about what's going on in the media, and try just to play hockey."

"Vinny is a professional," Martin St. Louis told the AP, "I thought he was great out there. It's just the nature of the business. We've just got to be strong mentally."

Tampa Bay is 14-20-10, good for 4th in the Southeast Division and twelfth in the Eastern Conference. Believe it or not, Tampa Bay is now only 9 points out of a playoff spot.

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