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Atlanta takes Southeast lead again; Tampa Bay’s win bumps Washington back down to third

Dec 20, 2010, 10:20 PM EDT

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enstromandbuff

On Sunday night, the Washington Capitals rejoiced as they finally broke their troubling eight game slump. It was as if King Kong had been lifted from their backs (and it’s pretty tough to skate with a building-sized monkey on your back).

Yet one night later, they find themselves in the same standings scenario as they did on their slumping Saturday.

That’s because both the Thrashers and Lightning won their games tonight. Those wins position Atlanta at No. 1 in the Southeast, Tampa Bay in second place and Washington in third. Looking at it from an Eastern Conference standpoint, Atlanta would take the second seed, Tampa Bay the fifth and Washington the sixth if the playoffs were to start right now.

Let’s take a look at how the Thrashers and Lightning won their games.

Atlanta 6, Toronto 3

Dustin Byfuglien might be a scoring machine for a blueliner, but Tobias Enstrom isn’t exactly chopped liver. Enstrom scored two goals and two assists, Fredrik Modin scored two goals and both Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little earned two helpers each as the Thrashers crunched the Leafs.

The worst part might be that Toronto out-shot Atlanta 40-23 and converted three out of their four power play opportunities and still managed to get blown out at home.

Tampa Bay 5, Carolina 1

Martin St. Louis scored what would ultimately be the game-winner with one second left in the first period, but the Lightning decided to tack on three insurance goals in the second period for good measure.

They also limited the shots on goal for beleaguered goalie Dan Ellis (21 out of 22 saves), who played tonight because Mike Smith went down with a “minor” knee injury.

Maybe the Lightning don’t need Evgeni Nabokov after all?

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