MONTREAL CANADA - OCTOBER 13: Members of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate the game winning goal by Ryan Malone #6 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on October 13 2010 in Montreal Quebec Canada. The Lightning defeated the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Lightning Win Final Game, Postseason Finalized

The Lightning face the Hurricanes tonight, in a game that holds playoff implications for the Hurricanes and Rangers.

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Bolts Win, Look Toward Playoffs

The Tampa Bay Lightning won their final season match over the Hurricanes, also shutting Carolina out of the playoffs.

After today's events Tampa will face the fourth seeded Penguins in the first round, and the New York Rangers won their eighth seed thanks to six goals from the Lightning.

The game ended 6-2, with a huge credit due to goalie Mike Smith who had 42 saves, took a wrist shot to the face, and fended off the desperate onslaught of Carolina, who were playing do-or-die hockey in their home finale. 

Martin St. Louis would finish the game with two assists and a goal on an empty net. Another empty net goal from Simon Gagne drove the point home in the third period. "We knew they were going to come out hard, and we treated it as a playoff game," Stamkos said. "It was a Game 7 for them, so for us it was a great tuneup for our playoffs."

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Lightning Lead Carolina 3-0 After First Period

The starting Lightning athletes were not expected to take the field, but the Bolts let them play against the Hurricanes.

The first goal came on a deflection nine feet out by Dominic Moore, assisted by Steve Downie and Marc-Andre Bergeron.

The second goal came from an exceptional pass by Martin St. Louis. With no men on the Carolina side, St. Louis intercepted a pass and bounced it off the wall to get to Vincent Lecavalier on a break away. Tampa's captain charged to the net and tapped it into the 5-hole (between the goalies legs). Had the pass been down the ice, it surely would have been intercepted.

The third goal was for phenom Steven Stamkos on a tap in goal. Stamkos was headed full speed to the net and caught a delayed pass with seven feet left, Ted Purcell and Simon Gagne given the assist.

Mike Smith has also shown moments of brilliance in the net, most notably kicking the puck for a save after landing flat on his back on a save seconds earlier.

Stamkos credited the motivation to play so hard to some words from Coach Boucher. "You never know if you would meet again in the play offs." Might as well beat them now, right?

Two periods remain, Tampa up 3-0. Ryan Malone did not make todays trip in favor of getting rest. 

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Lightning To Face Hurricanes In Regular Season Finale

The Tampa Bay Lightning face the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:00 PM Saturday night in the final game of the regular season for both clubs. While the Lightning clinched a playoff spot a while ago and clinched the fifth seed with their victory last night, the Hurricanes have a lot riding on this game.

The Hurricanes are currently competing with the New York Rangers for the final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, only needing to win tonight to clinch a playoff spot. If the Hurricane lose and the Rangers win, though, then the Rangers will be heading into the playoffs instead. This puts the Rangers at a disadvantage, as the Lightning have no incentive to play their best lineup or their hardest in tonight's game.

SB Nation's blog for the Lightning, Raw Charge, has more on tonight's match-up:

Mike Smith starts in goal tonight for the Bolts. Victor HedmanRyan Malone and others may very well sit tonight. The Lightning may make call-ups from AHL Norfolk, but the team does not want to screw over the Ads own playoff seeding chase.

The Lightning have improved to a tie for ninth in the NHL on the penalty kill, with an 83.7% kill rate. They will likely end the season in sixth in the NHL on the power play (20.6% conversion rate at the moment). The Hurricanes, on the other hand, have the 21st rated penalty kill unit in the league, stopping 81.2% of opposing power plays. They are converting 15.9% of power play opportunities, ranking them 24th in the league.

Rangers fans will be watching tonight's game closely, but odds are the Lightning will be taking things easy. There's no sense risking a big injury right before the playoffs; let your key players get some work in to stay fresh, but otherwise, why risk it?

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