Lecavalier scored a power-play goal 2:29 into overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-3 victory over the Capitals in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
After squandering three one-goal leads, Tampa Bay was handed a golden opportunity in overtime when Washington defenseman Ken Klee joined teammate Jaromir Jagr in the penalty box after elbowing Dave Andreychuk. Jagr was called for roughing 54 seconds earlier.
"I was very surprised, but it is the same game in OT," Lecavalier said of the 5-on-3. "You can't just go into OT and not call anything. They made two good calls and it paid off for us."
"That's the way it goes," Klee said. "(The referee) made the calls that he thought he needed to make and that's it. There's no sense crying about it now. He made the calls and we've got to live with the consequences."
Washington coach Bruce Cassidy also kept his composure regarding the situation.
"I haven't seen too many 5-on-3's in overtime, but they call them the way they see them," he said. "I'm not going to cry about it. Obviously, I don't agree with the call on Jagr. It's just a 1-on-1 battle away from the play that you see 100 times a night. He saw it as roughing and that's the way he called it."
The Lightning wasted little time on the two-man advantage, as Lecavalier reached around defenseman Brendan Witt on the doorstep and poked in the rebound of Dan Boyle's slap shot 17 seconds later for his second goal of the game and Tampa Bay's first win of the series.
"Usually, I don't really get a lot of pucks because it's down low and shots from the point, but I made sure that if there was a rebound, I would try to get it," Lecavalier said. "I was fortunate enough that it was right there and I turned around at the right time. I guess you could say that it was a lucky goal, but we'll take it."
Washington's Dainius Zubrus failed to score on a first-period penalty shot but proceeded to post his first career two-goal postseason game, while Witt forced the extra session by scoring with 2:56 remaining in the third period.
Vaclav Prospal and Martin St. Louis also tallied for the Lightning, who improved the franchise mark in playoff overtime games to 3-0.
Tampa Bay has a chance to even the series Wednesday at the MCI Center, where it had lost its previous 11 visits.
"The pressure is still on us," Andreychuk said. "We're still down and we have to win another game in this building. It's got to be the next game. The only thing we've done is given ourselves another game in our own building. But they're still in the driver's seat."
After dropping the first two games on home ice, the Lightning stormed out of the gate in this one, taking a 1-0 lead in less than four minutes.
St. Louis pushed the puck forward on a faceoff in the Washington zone and chased it down in the left corner. After gaining control, he found Lecavalier, who beat goaltender Olaf Kolzig from alone in the low slot at 3:46 for his first career playoff tally.
"That was very important," Lecavalier said. "I don't know what would have happened if they would have gotten the first goal, that could have been a crusher. But we made sure that we got the first one and go from there."
Lecavalier nearly made it 2-0 with 13 minutes left when he took a pass from defenseman Brad Lukowich alone in the slot, but Kolzig was able to stop his shot.
Less than five minutes later, Zubrus skated down on a shorthanded breakaway but was pulled down from behind by Prospal, forcing referee Bill McCreary to call for the first penalty shot of the 2003 playoffs.
But Zubrus' shot sailed high and wide of Nikolai Khabibulin, making the Capitals' franchise 0-for-4 on postseason penalty shots.
"I wanted to shoot the puck," Zubrus said. "Once I was coming down, for some reason, it seemed like there was a little bit of room up top. I tried to go there and I missed it, and that's pretty much it."
With 6 1/2 minutes left in the first, it was Michael Nylander's turn to draw Washington even. But after making an end-to-end rush, his shot bounced off the left goalpost.
Zubrus redeemed himself on a power-play opportunity to forge a 1-1 tie.
Sergei Berezin dumped in a shot that Tampa Bay defenseman Stan Neckar could not handle in the right faceoff circle. Pouncing on the loose puck, Zubrus whacked it between Khabibulin's pads at 14:21 for his sixth career postseason goal.
Tampa Bay regained the lead 3:44 into the second on a clever play by St. Louis.
While behind the net, St. Louis lifted defenseman Calle Johansson's stick and gathered the puck before completing a pass. From in front, Prospal beat Kolzig low to the glove side for his second goal of the series.
"We couldn't find an answer for them tonight," Cassidy said of Tampa Bay's top line of Lecavalier, St. Louis and Prospal. "They were the difference, let's face it. ... If the puck is following them around early or they score one early, they are a little excited."
With 9:35 to go in the period, Jagr carried down the left side into the faceoff circle. After getting by defenseman Jassen Cullimore, Zubrus chipped Jagr's pass into the air and over Khabibulin for a 2-2 tie.
The Capitals applied pressure late in the session while Khabibulin was without a stick, but Jagr's shot from the slot rang off the crossbar, keeping the game deadlocked.
Tampa Bay took a 3-2 lead at 11:13, when St. Louis accepted a feed from Prospal at the blue line and fired a wrist shot over Kolzig's glove.
"The puck came out of the zone and I tried to get out of the zone as quickly as possible and pretend that I'm going to the board," St. Louis said. "I knew Vaclav saw me and I cut to the middle behind their (defenseman) and I was hoping he was going to connect with me. I knew the other defenseman was going to cut me off and I wasn't going to get a clean breakaway.
"I wanted to make sure I was going to get the puck off quick and not miss the net. I tried to go high short side because if I go far side and I miss, they're breaking out."
But 4 1/2 minutes after Peter Bondra hit the post, the Capitals knotted it once again.
After holding the puck behind the net, Jagr skated to the left post and passed to the high slot before being leveled by defenseman Pavel Kubina. Pinching from the point, Witt one-timed a blast past Khabibulin's glove side at 17:04 for his fourth career postseason tally.
"Obviously, we had a big lift in the third coming back," Klee said. "They pop one in to go ahead and we tied it up. We had a lot of good pressure. Obviously, we need to keep that same enthusiasm going tomorrow."
While his teammates celebrated the game-tying goal, Jagr laid motionless on the ice with blood trickling from his face before skating to the bench under his own power.
"I'm trying to do my best against him," Kubina said. "I tried to play physical against him and that's all I can do. He's a great player and I'm just trying to do my job to stop him."