BLUE JACKETS at LIGHTNING - GAME 2
Friday, 7 p.m., Amalie Arena, (FOX Sports Ohio, CBJ app, CNBC, SN360, FOX Sports app, 97.1 The Fan)
With his team trailing 3-2 midway through the third period and veteran center Brandon Dubinsky sent off for a double-minor against the NHL's No. 1 power play, Columbus coach John Tortorella was just looking for a stop.
On the bench, Josh Anderson was thinking the same thing. They got so much more.
"That's what's so screwed up about that game -- it changed the game,'' Tortorella said Thursday, reflecting on Anderson's short-handed goal that tied the score and set the stage for Seth Jones' game-winner on a subsequent Blue Jackets power play.
The 4-3 triumph silenced a sellout crowd at Amalie Arena that still can't believe the Lightning squandered a 3-0 lead after the opening period. Game 2 is back in Tampa Friday evening before the best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series shifts to Columbus on Sunday.
Video: Round 1, Game 2 Blue Jackets at Lightning
The Blue Jackets relied on special teams and resilient goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who was beaten twice within the first four shots he faced Wednesday, including a short-handed breakaway goal by Alex Killorn at the 4:12 mark.
But Bobrovsky, who had been saddled with a 5-14 career mark in the playoffs, blanked the league's top scoring club in the final 42 minutes as the Blue Jackets clawed their way back. His highlight stop came in the opening seconds of the second period, when he dove across the crease to deny the NHL's top scorer, Nikita Kucherov, during a Lightning power play.
"I think he not only rebounded, I thought he went to a different level,'' Tortorella said of a two-time Vezina Trophy winner. "It was an interesting first period for all of us. He wasn't just good after that, he was fantastic. Let's face it, that save he makes on the breakdown on the power play at the beginning of the second period ... if it goes to 4-0, see ya.'' Tortorella praised assistant coach Brad Shaw for shaping a penalty-kill unit that ranked second to Tampa Bay during the regular season. Anderson took it to another level when he crossed the blue line on a 2-on-2, veered into the right faceoff circle and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy.
"We've bought into our system," said Anderson, who topped Columbus with a plus-25 rating this season. "We had a job to do to kill the penalty. We did that, and we got the short-handed goal."
While winning eight of their last nine games, outscoring opponents 39-17, the Blue Jackets haven't allowed a single power-play goal. "We're loose, but we're focused,'' said captain Nick Foligno. "We have to be better next game. Let's not mince words -- this is not a team you want to spot three goals to. We've got to find a way to play the game from the get-go."
As favorites to win the Stanley Cup, the Lightning are chalking up their stunning Game 1 loss to a lack of discipline in key moments.
"We've got to turn the page,'' said center Tyler Johnson. "We didn't play the right way. We know the recipe that we need to do and for whatever reason, we got away from that.'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper credited Columbus for remaining poised despite early duress.
"There's no quit in them,'' Cooper said. "As the playoffs move on, teams improve. I'm assuming we're going to get even better from Columbus than we did last night.''
GAME 2 HUB: Highlights, tweets, and news
Know the Foe
There's no beating around the bush here - the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning are arguably the best NHL team to touch the ice. Not this season, not in recent memory, but in the Stanley Cup era.
With convincing wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins to round out the regular season, Tampa tied the NHL record with 62 wins on the year.
The Lightning don't have a glaring weakness. They score in bunches with 325 goals on the season (36 more than second most - Calgary, 289), defend well with a 103 goal differential (41 more than second most - Calgary, 62) and are great in the clutch with a 13-3-1 record in overtime/shootout games.
In the three head-to-head matchups between Columbus and Tampa Bay this season, the Lightning outscored the Jackets 17-3 and were 54.5 percent on the power play, while holding the CBJ scoreless on 10 powerplay attempts.
Leading the way for Tampa Bay is the 2018-19 Art Ross Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov (41-87-128) and line mate Steven Stamkos (45-52-98). On the back end, Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman (12-42-54) locks down the blue line with skill and size, standing 6'6" 223 lbs.
In net, Andrei Vasilevskiy has had a stellar season. The Vezina Trophy hopeful went 39-10-4 with a .925 SV% and six shutouts on the season.
PLAYOFF CENTRAL: Your one-stop location for news, notes, videos, and more
Stay out of the box: The Lightning have the top power play in the league, converting on 28.2% of chances. Tampa's top power play unit is comprised of Kucherov, Stamkos and Brayden Point, who have 128, 98 and 92 points respectively. With Alexandre Texier likely to draw in for the Jackets, it is equally as likely top unit penalty killer Alexander Wennberg will be scratched making things even tougher for the CBJ penalty kill.
Play "CBJ Hockey": Since the acquisitions of Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel at the trade deadline, the Blue Jackets have had their fair share of struggles. Jackets head coach John Tortorella has said adding skill guys doesn't make the CBJ a skill team, rather they need to continue to play the style of hockey that got them here. The CBJ won't out skill the Lightning, so getting pucks deep and using the physical advantage will be key.
Bob: Star, circle and underline this one twice. CBJ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been criticized for his postseason performance in the past, but it's no question the team wouldn't be in the playoffs without their goaltender's recent hot streak. In March, Bobrovsky went 9-4-0 with a .940 SV% and four shutouts to drag the Jackets into the second wild card spot. Bobrovsky staying hot may be the Jackets only chance to stun the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.
The Blue Jackets' come from behind win to erase a 3-goal deficit is the fifth franchise multi-goal comeback in postseason history.
Blue Jackets Projected Lineup*
*Subject to change
Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Ryan Dzingel - Matt Duchene - Josh Anderson
Alexandre Texier - Nick Foligno - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Riley Nash - Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Markus Nutivaara - David Savard
Dean Kukan - Scott Harrington
Scratched: Markus Hannikainen , Lukas Sedlak , Eric Robinson, Alexander Wennberg, Adam Clendening, Adam McQuaid, Andrew Peeke, Keith Kinkaid, Elvis Merzlikins
Roster Report: Columbus will hold an optional morning skate prior to Game 2 in Tampa.