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Caron shines in Pens’ win |

Caron shines in Pens’ win

Karen Price
| Saturday, January 18, 2003 12:00 a.m

Sebastien Caron is slipping.

Granted, it would have been difficult to top his previous game, a shutout. All the Penguins goalie did Friday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning was make 29 saves on 31 shots to help the Penguins to a 3-2 win, their third in a row. It was enough that coach Rick Kehoe said after the game that Caron, 22, would start again tonight when the Penguins face the Florida Panthers 7:30.

“It felt good,” Caron said. “It was another win and we played a great game again, so you can’t ask for more than that.”

Caron still doesn’t know what it means to lose in the NHL. Tonight’s start will be the fourth of his career. After last night’s game, his teammates couldn’t say enough good things about him. This is the first time this season that the Penguins (20-18-3-5) have gone on an extended road trip and not been downtrodden at the midway point. They have six of six possible points so far, and wrap up the trip on Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres.

And they’ve done it mostly without Mario Lemieux, who missed his fourth game of the last five with a groin injury. Kehoe said he believes Lemieux will try to skate today, but his chances of returning tonight remain in question.

“(Caron) was unbelievable; he made key saves all night,” said Martin Straka, who stickhandled his way through three Lightning players to assist on Milan Kraft’s game-winning goal. “Especially in the second on (Martin St. Louis’) two breakaways. He’s been playing awesome and that’s what we need right now.”

John Grahame didn’t fare as well. The goalie made his Tampa Bay debut four days after being traded for a fourth-round draft pick by the Boston Bruins. The deal happened while the Penguins were in Boston on Monday, just hours before they snapped a three-game losing streak to kick off the present road trip. Grahame had a 5-0-1 record against the Penguins going into the game. His career 1.81 goals-against average before the game went up a bit after Wayne Primeau, Alexei Kovalev and Kraft scored on him in the first two periods to take a 3-1 lead.

Vincent Lecavalier, who had a hat trick the last time the Penguins were in Tampa, pulled the Lightning within a goal midway through the third period on the power play. He sent a pass across the front of the net, where it was tipped by a Penguins defenseman and went past Caron to make it 3-2 at 9:02.

“I didn’t see it at all,” Caron said of the goal. “I just went for the pass and next thing it was in the net. I was tired too, it was a long penalty kill. They came hard all night, though. That was a team win again tonight.”

Primeau scored first, giving the Penguins the first goal of the game for the third time in a row. The ex-Lightning center threw the puck up the right boards to Shean Donovan in the corner. Donovan shoveled a pass behind him that hit Kubina’s stick, the side of the net and bounced into the slot, where Primeau was waiting.

Kovalev scored his first goal in 12 games at 8:08 with a shot from the point.

Caron’s shutout streak ended at 129:47 when Andre Roy scored at 11:47 of the second period for the Lightning. He pulled them within a goal, but the Penguins answered back before the period ended.

Straka came down the left wing from the neutral zone with the puck and started to cut across to the right, bringing two Lightning players with him. When he hit the brakes and cut back to his left, one of them slid right by him, leaving only Brad Lukowich between Straka and Grahame. Straka made a move around Lukowich, saw Kraft all alone at the left corner of the net and fed him the puck. Kraft roofed it for his sixth goal of the year at 16:55.

Karen Price is a former freelancer.

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