It was Family Night on Monday at the Corel Centre, where for as little as $10 Ottawa folks were force-fed a game between the Senators and Lightning.
That's $10 Canadian, mind you _ a mere $7.32 American.
Still, only 11,329 souls braved the ice and snow outside and some sloppy hockey inside. It was a record-low Corel crowd, some 7,000 below capacity in the 1-year-old building on the far outskirts of Canada's capital city.
Those who came saw the worst teams in the NHL's Eastern Conference in a game ending with the Lightning beating the Senators 4-3 _ but only after allowing a three-goal lead to be cut to one in the final period.
"We are making it interesting," Lightning defenseman Bill Houlder said. "Very interesting."
"And I helped," said Lightning goalie Rick Tabaracci, whose third-period penalty led to Ottawa's third goal.
For its trouble, 14-20-5 Tampa Bay got two points and pulled out of a last-place tie in the East with 12-20-7 Ottawa.
"Like I told them, "Boys, we'll take the points,' " Lightning coach Terry Crisp said. "But we've got to find a way to shut teams down."
The Lightning and Senators traded early third-period goals, Houlder sending a slap shot past Damian Rhodes from the right point and Ottawa defenseman Lance Pitlick wristing a deflected shot past Tabaracci from the top of the right faceoff circle to make it 4-2.
Then Randy Cunneyworth redirected a Janne Laukkanen shot past Tabaracci at 4:59 of the third, a power-play goal scored with Dino Ciccarelli serving a delay-of-game penalty because Tabaracci shot the puck over the boards.
And before you could say "dead last," the Senators were back in it.
"Suddenly," said Crisp, whose team turned a six-game winless streak into a four-game unbeaten streak before losing 7-3 to Pittsburgh in the first game of a four-game road trip Saturday, "we found a way to shoot ourselves in the foot again."
At least they missed the heart.
Tampa Bay couldn't clear its zone and allowed Ottawa two opportunities to tie in the eighth minute, but Tabaracci twice turned away Sergei Zholtok. In the 13th minute Tabaracci stopped Bruce Gardiner on a two-on-one. And in the final minute Tabaracci closed the door on what could have been a collapse of colossal proportions, snaring a Steve Duchesne wrist shot with 32.6 seconds remaining and rejecting a Daniel Alfredsson shot from the slot with 17.1 to go.
"When you have a two-goal lead," Lightning center Chris Gratton said, "you're in the driver's seat. You have to realize that."
"I think that's the biggest thing: Confidence," said Tabaracci. "We get a lead, and I could feel it like everybody else _ there was a sense of urgency."
To leave with a victory, that is.
"It starts on the bench," Gratton said. "We have to calm ourselves down. It goes for everybody: Coaches, players, trainers. Whoever is on the bench."
A guy who knows a little bit about the bench got the Lightning going in the first place.
Alexander Selivanov, who was benched Saturday for selfish play Friday, scored Tampa Bay's first goal, and rookie Daymond Langkow got the second to give Tampa Bay a two-goal lead before the first period was 12 minutes old.
Alexei Yashin cut the lead in half at 15:26 of the first, but Shawn Burr restored the cushion nearly nine minutes into the middle period.
Selivanov, who was reunited Monday with old linemates Burr and John Cullen, used a breakout pass from defenseman Drew Bannister for his 11th goal of the season.
The Russian wing skated in alone on the right side, beating Rhodes with a long-distance shot inside the left post. Langkow followed about five minutes later, using a pass from Chris Gratton for his seventh goal in the last eight games.
Yashin beat Bannister on Ottawa's first goal, skating wide around the rookie defenseman and cutting in through the back door to put one past Tabaracci on the shortside.
Then Selivanov got the second assist on Burr's goal, giving him six points in his past four games. He kept his man tied up on the boards, allowing Cullen to pick up the puck and pass across the goal crease for Burr's one-timer past Rhodes.
It was one of the few bright spots in otherwise puzzling victory.
"The only thing we're happy with," Bannister said, "is the two points."