He is a Man in Full these days, a leader.

He has been a Lightning center for a dozen seasons.

He has been a captain when he shouldn't have been, and now he's a captain in every sense of the word.

He took all 12 years, all of his experience, to get where he is.

And there was Vinny Lecavalier in front of the Washington net in overtime the other night. Teddy Purcell put the puck on his stick, and Vinny didn't miss, deftly flipping it high into the net for his second goal of the night — the overtime winner.

Then he slammed the glass like a kid and waited for a pile of Bolts to celebrate their 2-0 lead in their series with the Capitals.

It's much fun right now for Vinny.

He's not the 18-year-old Vinny. He's 31. He's not the 50-goal Vinny. He's not the 40-goal Vinny. But he's as full a Vinny as we've seen in a long time, and it's a reason the Bolts are winning in the playoffs again.

"I've always believed I could do it, get back, but when you start winning, it really helps," Lecavalier said.

A few years ago, the Lightning nearly traded Vinny to the Vancouver Canucks for goaltender Roberto Luongo.

Last season, there were times Vinny looked lifeless out there.

The "highest-paid player in hockey" seemed a rip-off.

"Those were tough seasons," he said.

Now look. He was all over the second half of the season after an injury and now he is all over these playoffs, with 10 points, tied with Marty St. Louis and two others for second in the league this postseason. Lecavalier is doing everything he needs to do, on both ends of the ice.

This is exactly the kind of player the Bolts got out of No.?4 in the race to the Cup in 2004, back when Vinny was 24. No one will forget him dropping the gloves and going with Calgary's Jarome Iginla in Game 3 of the Cup finals. Vinny sent a message that the Bolts wouldn't back down.

Vinny Lecavalier has grown up before our eyes. He's a father now. He's a citizen, a man of character. His charity work to fight pediatric cancer is an inspiration, though Vinny points to the children, at those smiles that could make him skate through walls.

"It's amazing what they do," Lecavalier said. "They choose to live. They choose to be strong."

Maybe some of them have rubbed off.