The Lightning won with style last night. In their home finale the Bolts posted four goals to best the rival Panthers.
The game started strong when two faces of the franchise, Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone, each had wrist shots that found the back of the net in the first period. Team captain Lecavlier even had a second goal less than two minutes into the second with a wrap around. At the end of the same period, Pavel Kubina would put the nail in the coffin and secure the Tampa win for a rambunctious home crowd.
Martin St. Louis had an assist today to set a single-season career-high total at 66. Dewayne Roloson had 23 saves on the night, about ten shy from what he'll be defending in the post season but not a bad performance.
The Bolts broke the 100 mark in the point standings for the first time in franchise history with this win, and tied the franchise record for home wins at 25. A historic win to say the least.
The East is nearly set with one game remaining on the season. The Bolts will travel to the Carolina Hurricanes who are competing with the Rangers for the eighth and final seed.
The Lightning were locked into the fifth seed when their competitors, the Pittsburgh Penguins, won in a shootout over the Islanders to clinch at least the fourth seed. In an interesting turn of events, the third and fourth seed both belong to Atlantic Division rivals. The Bolts will play in the first round against either the Philadelphia Flyers or the aforementioned Penguins, depending on how their final meetings of the season end.
Tonight the Lightning will not have much to play for other than bragging rights for shutting down Carolina's playoff run. As summarized by our affiliates over at Raw Charge,
The last game of the regular season has implications for other teams. If the Lightning beat the Carolina Hurricanes, that ends the possibility for playoffs for them. And that allows the Lightning's former head coach, John Tortorella, and his New York Rangers team to play the Washington Capitals, who lead the Eastern Conference. So who the Caps play in the first round will be dependent upon whether the Lightning beat the ‘Canes or not.
and according to Damien Cristodero at the St. Pete Times, the Rangers will be at a disadvantage:
Because tonight's regular-season finale against the Hurricanes won't affect home-ice advantage, coach Guy Boucher might sit or limit the minutes of some of his regulars.
Call-ups from AHL Norfolk also are possible.
That might not go over too well with the Rangers, who are battling Carolina for the final playoff spot in the East. But Boucher, who admitted the situation is "touchy," said the focus has to be on his team.
"It has nothing to do with Carolina or the Rangers," he said. "We have to care about our team. We're going to the playoffs. We're going to think of our team (today)."