In 21 previous games against the Southeast this season, Florida's record was less than sterling: 7-12-2. The numbers are a bit skewed when considering six of those losses came vs. conference powerhouse Washington, but Atlanta, Carolina, and Tampa Bay haven't exactly been considered pacesetters.
A victory over the Lightning - a SE club with its own deep flaws - would go a mighty long way in the "confidence" department for the Cats. Perhaps not confidence enough to overcome a practically insurmountable climb to the postseason, but make the final ten games of the year more than a footnote.
First and foremost, goaltender Scott Clemmensen - a man whose positive contributions on-ice have been rather limited, to put it kindly - dusted himself off after a lackluster effort on a Steve Downie goal in the first period to end the night with 29 saves, earning his first "W" since December 11th. This was a stretch in which he went 0-3 with two no-decisions.
As for skaters, Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton, and Cory Stillman each picked up a goal and an assist while Keith Ballard (+3) had 2 helpers. Radek Dvorak and David Booth grabbed individual goals. Bryan McCabe again led in TOI 25:38).
Downie and Steven Stamkos (his 43rd of the year!) scored for Das Boltz, with Mike Smith stopping 35 of 40 Florida shots. Among other notables, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis each finished with one assist and -2. Alex Tanguay: 0 points, -1.
It's been the rule of late. They let off the physical stuff for even a single shift and the house of cards is exposed for what it is. Until reinforcements can be drafted/traded for/signed, Florida victories will have to be won by attrition. Nothing else has worked with the current crew, and Sunday was more evidence of the stragtegy's effectiveness.