He has been a prodigy. A skinny 18-year-old with the skills of a maestro.

He has been a disappointment. A petulant 21-year-old with a lack of perspective.

He has been a superstar. A smiling 26-year-old on top of the hockey world.

And now? What would you call Vinny Lecavalier today?

How about Tampa Bay's savior.


He is 31 and no longer the goal scorer he was as a younger man. His body has been dinged and dented and, at times, his ego has been forced to take a holiday.

Steven Stamkos has become the face of the Lightning, and Marty St. Louis continues to rack up points at a rare pace.

Lecavalier? He is the older gent. A 50-goal scorer who has become the most expensive defensive forward in the game. He is a captain, a leader, an example to follow.

And in overtime of Game 2 against the Capitals on Sunday night, he was a star once more. Lecavalier gave the Lightning a two-game lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a streaking, artful goal six minutes into overtime for a 3-2 victory.

The Capitals were in the middle of a line change when Randy Jones chased down a puck in the Lightning defensive zone and sent a long bounce pass to Teddy Purcell, who found Lecavalier coming off the bench and charging toward the net.

Going full speed at Michal Neuvirth, Lecavalier stopped the puck then lifted it gently over the goaltender's glove for the winner.

"Honestly, that move he pulled for that goal? That was just sick," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "I had to look at the replay afterward. I thought he just batted it, and it went in. No. He's going full speed, all the momentum in the world, he's barely making it there, and he stops it and pulls it back.

"That's just crazy. Honestly, it takes a special person to be able to do that."

What's even more crazy is sometimes we forget this is the magic Lecavalier is capable of creating. Perhaps because we have watched him for so long, we have become guilty of taking him for granted. That includes his work on the ice, and off.