The Lightning went into last night's matchup with what seemed a morale low. Freddie Modin, the balls-to-the-wall Swede was out. Danny "Go shove it, Mike Keenan!" Boyle was to miss his second game. Add Pavel Kubina to the Injury trio and there was doubt going into this game. Lots more than seems to be played by the Friday Morning Puck Antics from the Tribune and Times.
You could even see it was a shaky start to things as well -- I commented during the game there was a good deal of dumping-in by the Lightning and sound shots on goal didn't seem to be happening. There was more action in the neutral zone and the Lightning's own end to start this game off.
But this game was about overcoming adversity. Overcoming the nipping-at-the-heels Atlanta Thrashers and overcoming doubt. If there was any particular item that cemented this, it was Dmitry Afanasenkov.
Forget defense for a second and the weak power plays, Afanasenkov has had an up and down season this year that remained mostly down. He's played mostly a grinder role and has failed during his brief stints on the top lines. Last night he was lined up with Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko and found the magic that I had expected of him for two years. The player nicknamed by his detractors as "Cantgetashotov" scored twice.
Paul Ranger netted his first career goal which ultimately became the game winner (after the Lightning allowed 3 unanswered goals in the 3rd) and the Bolts ultimately kept pace with the Habs and Devils by beating the Thrash.
One last question for readership: Where is Vincent Lecavalier and why has his game suddenly changed?