The better team wins

For a period and a few minutes, the Lightning and Senators were going toe to toe. For a period and a few minutes, this looked like an epic in the making.

But emotions started running high on ice and instead of letting the game progress uninterrupted, there was somewhat of a rare occurrence:

The officials stepped in.

And after a few failed power play attempts by both teams, the Senators notched one, then another, then another, then another. In the span of a period and a half, the Senators scored 4 unanswered goals and the Lightning were shell shocked. They were flat-out schooled (again) by the Senators.

This time, you weren't distracted by the sideshow of emotions running high out there. This time, you actually saw a hockey game with one team playing with more skill, determination, machismo and chaputz while the other played absent-mindedly and lackluster. This time, the game wasn't ruled by "let'em play and the chips will fall where they may" bullshit from Kerry Fraser and crew.

It was an NHL playoff game and a resounding defeat at the hands of the Ottawa Senators. That's all there is to it.

In the final minutes of what may very likely be the final home game of the 2005-06 Lightning season, the once-rocking home crowd were aloof and the silence was deafening. While the hunger of rookie Paul Ranger was clearly evident, it was also clearly evident the fire was out for the majority of the Lightning roster. The camera panned the Lightning bench during a stoppage in the games waning moments and you could see the roster tuckered out and searching for something, anything, to rally around.

...just as it's been the case more times than not since the Olympic Break concluded.

5-2 the final at Times Palace. Ottawa hosts game five on Saturday at 6:30 PM. The Lightning's goals were scored by Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards (both of whom owe huge credit to the aforementioned Ranger). Both goals can be argued up and down -- did Marty interfer with Emery? Should Richards have been sent to the box along with Eaves? -- but matter little in the end.