Games you have to win
Head to head with the division leader - you're five points out and looking to repeat not only as southeast division champions but also repeat as Eastern Conference Champions and Stanley Cup Champions when the final horn sounds on 2005-06...
Yet you have to make the playoffs at all to have a chance at parts 2 and 3 of this trifecta of championships... (winning that first title of the three is optional) and one has to wonder just where the Lightning will be seeded in the playoffs -- or if for that matter -- after games like tonight.
Weak goaltending, bad penalties and a continuing lack of physical play clamp down on Tampa Bay as the (City Of Raleigh, North) Carolina Hurricanes (just joking, David :) ) lights up the Bolts 6-4 tonight.
Of course there were some reasosn for optimism as the Lightning came back a few times during play. Freddie Modin opened scoring for the Bolts, Ryan Craig and Evgeny Artyhukin both showed hope for the future in their performances tonight... But the biggest problem that remains on the team is between the pipes. Sean Burke got the start and showed again how inconsistant the Lightning's tandem can be. 30 shtos faced, 24 saves... During stretches of that it looked ,like the Canes could do no wrong (Eric Staals first goal, and his second.... and just most of the first period for that matter :-p ) while shooting the puck at the Lightning net.
The Lightning played like a different team after New Years 2004 and it was what helped them propell themselves to the playoffs and ultimately the Cup... If this team is going to start firing on all cylinders, it would help if they did it soon... but that likely would be after the Olympics, and fans should hope the Bolts don't put themselves out of contention before then.