Tampa Bay welcomed back an old friend Monday night, greeting Brad Richards with open arms in his return to town. The former Lightning star was even applauded when he scored a goal two minutes into the game.
But it was Vinny Lecavalier who shoved Richards and the Dallas Stars out the back door.
Lecavalier rocketed a one-timer past Marty Turco with 5:06 left in the game for what proved to be the winning goal in a 4-2 Lightning victory on reunion night inside the St. Pete Times Forum. Former Dallas goaltender Mike Smith stopped 23 shots in his first game against his former team, which snapped the Stars' eight-game winning streak in Tampa.
"This was one of the most mentally and emotionally draining games I think I've played, other than the one when I was traded here," Smith said. "It felt surreal out there. I was kind of nervous to start the game."
The start went well for Richards, who answered Lecavalier's shorthanded goal 1:33 into the game with a power-play goal 20 seconds later. Richards then set up a two-on-one break for Dallas in the second in which Loui Eriksson converted to give the Stars a 2-1 lead.
"No, no nerves, I had a lot of fun out there ... until the last five minutes," Richards said.
"Obviously it was a bad ending. It was a fun time to come back, but the bigger picture is we really wanted to win the game, not just because it's them."
After it seemed the Lightning had been lulled to sleep - Tampa Bay had three shots in the second period after taking six consecutive penalties to start the game - it took the Lightning's No. 91 to wake the team up when first overall pick Steven Stamkos tied the game on a play in front of the net with 8:14 left in the game. That play seemed to spark Tampa Bay and led to Lecavalier's winner, set up on a touch pass from newly acquired defenseman Cory Murphy.