A pair of playoff-bound teams, both desperately trying to secure favorable berths, met up tonight in downtown Tampa. As if that wasn't dramatric enough, there was an added element of some out-of-town scoreboard watching during the penultimate regular season home game at the Forum. While the Lightning were taking care of business on the ice in Florida, about 1,500 miles away, the New York Islanders (of all unlikely allies) were shutting out the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. As a result, the Lightning now trail the Canadiens by a single point with a game in hand. This morning, the Bolts' prospects of catching and passing Montreal looked bleak and now they actually control their own destiny.
"Naturally you would like to have everything in your control. I suppose right now we do have it in our control but we can't look at it. We have two games left and Columbus in less than 24 hours. If we do win out then home ice comes our way. But more importantly, we are looking at how we are playing." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
Right. So let's talk about how the Lightning played tonight, shall we?
Johnson's goal was his 24th of the season, breaking the Lightning record for rookies previously held by Stamkos.
The 1-0 lead held into the first intermission.
Goaltender Anders Lindback, making his second consecutive start with Ben Bishop injured, may have been even better tonight than he was Tuesday when the Lightning shut out Toronto. He was definitely called on to make more spectacular, highlight-reel stops.
"Well, he's been in this league for a while. Ben Bishop has played the load for us this year and Lindback has learned to turn the page and understand that he just has to make the next save. I look at this as a great opportunity for him and he is seizing the moment." - Cooper
Still, with Philadelphia applying pressure and occupying huge chunks of time in the offensive zone, it was pretty apparent that one goal wasn't going to settle this one.
The teams were tied entering the final period.
Tampa Bay regained the lead at 4:33 when Richard Panik backhanded his own rebound past Philadelphia goalie Ray Emery. Victor Hedman and Kostka provided assistance.
It looked like the Flyers would cut that lead in half at 11:20 when a huge scrum in the Lightning net and crease found Lindback prone and the puck loose. Fortunately, defender Radko Gudas was able to fill enough of the net to keep the puck out.
Unfortunately, just a minute later, Philadelphia did get that goal when Palat, attempting to deflect a pass, inadvertently steered the puck past Lindback. Sean Couturier was credited with the goal and Mark Streit was tagged with an assist.
At 14:14, the Lightning posted an insurance marker when Stamkos scored a power play goal, with Valtteri Filppula and Hedman offering helpers, before sweating out the final few minutes..
The Lightning's quest for home ice against Montreal resumes tomorrow when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets, another playoff-bound team fighting for favorable placement in the tournament, in their final home game of the regular season.
"That's what we have been striving for so we can't get ahead of ourselves. We know how big home ice is and how great our fans are so that is something we are really excited to go into here and get back at it tomorrow." - Anders Lindback
Okay, so here are the various simple (ie: not resorting to tiebreakers) scenarios that would see the Lightning catching and passing Montreal for second place in the division and securing home ice during their first round match-up.
- Lightning win both games, giving them 101 points for the season (Montreal can finish with no more than 100).
- Lightning win one game and lose one in overtime, giving them 100 points while Montreal loses their final game (Saturday vs the Rangers) to finish with 98 or 99 points.
- Lightning win one game, lose one in regulation giving them 99 points. while Montreal loses their last game in regulation to finish with 98 points.
- The Lightning conclude the regular season series against Philadelphia with a 3-0-0 mark and a four game winning streak going back to last season.
- Lindback may not get a lot of playing time but he has actually started the Lightning's last five games against Philadelphia and entered tonight's game with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in his career versus the Flyers
- Tonight was Teddy Purcell's 400th NHL game..
- Ondrej Palat has a five game points-scored streak, tallying three goals and four assists.
- Former Philadelphia Phillies slugger and baseball hall of famer Mike Schmidt was at the game..
- The Lightning honored Dr. Stephen Parks as the 40th Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Parks, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Brandon Outreach Clinic. Dr. Parks has dedicated the last 25 years of his life to making the Tampa area a better and healthier place for those less fortunate. Dr. Parks recognized that there was a need to create a clinic in Brandon where hard-working, low income families and individuals could receive basic medical care. After realizing this need, Dr. Parks founded the Brandon Outreach Clinic. The clinic has provided medical care to patients without health insurance since its opening, providing much-needed health care to those who would not have received assistance any place else. Dr. Parks has been widely recognized for his service to the community. He received the 2002 Key Citizen Award presented by the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, the Service to Mankind Award presented by Sertoma, the Bill Frist HCA Humanitarian Award presented by Brandon Regional Hospital, and the Daughters of the American Revolution Award for Community Service.