- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2003

TAMPA, Fla. Martin St. Louis is the smallest guy on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster, listed at 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, and both figures are probably exaggerations. Small as he may be, he is not hard to notice.
Or maybe he is. The Washington Capitals are having a lot of trouble spotting him, and the right wing is more than taking advantage.
St. Louis scored one goal and assisted on the second last night as the Lightning took a huge 2-1 victory over the Caps in the crucial Game5 of their best-of-7 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at St. Pete Times Forum. Tampa Bay now leads 3-2 after losing the first two games at home.
Game6 is tomorrow afternoon at MCI Center. Game7, if necessary, will be Tuesday in Tampa.
Caps defenseman Brendan Witt called what happened a mental mistake. Coach Bruce Cassidy said the same thing. And it could be that the mistake of allowing St.Louis in alone on goalie Olie Kolzig will be fatal for Washington.
The Lightning had taken a 1-0 on a power play in the first period, and for oddsmakers, that should have been a telling sign. There has not been a single lead change in the five games.
Washington eventually tied the game in the second period, but Tampa Bay came out on fire in the third, grabbed the momentum and skated the Caps off the ice.
The winning goal came nearly 12 minutes into the third off a broken play. The Caps kept taking Tampa Bay players out of the play, but another Lightning body kept showing up to grab the puck and keep things moving.
"Apparently, nobody saw St. Louis on the backcheck," said Witt, who had gone down to block a shot. "I didn't see who, but I know some of our guys were coming back. I know somebody must have lost him. It was a mental mistake that ended up costing us. … There's only so much Olie can do."
Cassidy more than agreed.
"In the third period, we threw three pucks up the middle," said Cassidy, his voice hoarse. "At some point, our players have to realize you can't rely on Olie to stand on his head and make these great saves time after time. Those are mental mistakes. You can't throw a puck up the middle of the ice repeatedly. You can't do that stuff in the playoffs in a 1-1 game."
St. Louis had approached the net from the right side as play shifted to the left corner. Defenseman Stan Neckar spotted the small wing just as Neckar was about to be plowed into by a Caps defender and got rid of the puck. All St.Louis had to do was redirect it into the cage because Kolzig was still coming around. It was the spitting image of a play Tampa Bay had scored on earlier.
"We have to figure that out in a hurry," Cassidy said of the giveaways, "because if it wasn't for those chances, I don't know if they had any on their own. And if they did, they were very few."
Up to the third period, the Caps had played well. They dominated the first period, outshooting Tampa Bay 8-3, but trailed when it was over. The Caps dominated the second period and tied the game but should have had more. It wasn't that Nikolai Khabibulin was having that great a night in goal for the Lightning; it was more that the Caps couldn't finish what they were starting.
"I thought we had a pretty good first two periods. We outchanced them, and I thought [we] should have been up after two," Caps wing Dainius Zubrus said. "But we just stopped playing in the third. Instead of getting the puck in deep, doing what made us successful in the first two periods, we got away from that. … They're a good team. You make mistakes like that, and they're going to score goals."
Vaclav Prospal opened the scoring on a power play 14 minutes into the game on the earlier backdoor play. This time St.Louis, who now has four goals and eight points in the series, set up Prospal.
Washington tied it 17 minutes into the second on Michael Nylander's third of the playoffs. Ivan Ciernik saved the puck from leaving the zone and got it to Jaromir Jagr. The big right wing moved along the boards below the goal line and finally centered as Nylander barreled toward the net. The goalie had no chance.
The first goal of the game came about when Kolzig went to clear a puck around the boards behind his net. As he shot the puck, his stick came up and Vincent Lecavalier ran into it. The Lightning center was cut by the blade of Kolzig's stick, an accident if there ever was one.
Nonetheless, Kolzig was hit with a double minor for high sticking. The Caps killed the first half, but Prospal scored on the second, and another debate started.
"Rule 61, page 122, says if a player winds up and shoots and there is accidental contact, there is no penalty," Cassidy said. "I know that [NHL commissioner Gary] Bettman has asked us not to comment on the officiating, but we had a 5-on-3 call the other night that a lot of people asked me about. They were judgment calls, but it's the first time in 70 years that [a 5-on-3 in overtime of a playoff game] happened.
"Tonight that was a call that, to me, the referee didn't know the rule, and that frustrates you. Judgment calls you have to live with and move on. But that's a rule that's in the rule book, and the referee should know that one. It's automatic, and there should be no call. Lecavalier skated into Olie's stick; it wasn't even Olie firing into him at the end of the shot. It's a bad call."
Was it just another call in a game full of them, or did it truly matter?
"Does it have an outcome?" Cassidy asked. "Well, they score two, we get one, and they get one on that power play."

Notes The first power play unit was revamped when the former unit was unable to convert after several tries. Calle Johansson was put on one point with Sergei Gonchar; Peter Bondra joined Robert Lang and Jagr. On the second unit, Gonchar stayed out with Ken Klee on a point; the forwards were Sergei Berezin, Nylander and Zubrus. …
Attendance at St. Pete Times Forum last night was 21,324, highest in arena history. … The scratches were Rick Berry, Josef Bouemedienne and J.F. Fortin on defense, with Josh Green, Alex Henry, Brian Sutherby and Stephen Peat up front.

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