BLUE JACKETS vs. LIGHTNING - GAME 4
Blue Jackets lead series 3-0
Sunday, 7 p.m., Nationwide Arena, (FOX Sports Ohio, CBJ app, CNBC, TVAS, SN360, FOX Sports app, 97.1 The Fan)
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It's time for the Blue Jackets to break through to the second round. It's time for the 5th Line to witness history. It's time for the team to finish what they started in Tampa - and do it on the corner of Front and Nationwide in front of 19,000 people who have waited long enough.
With the Tampa Bay Lightning on the ropes, Columbus enters Game 4 set to chase history. Not only can the Blue Jackets win their first ever playoff series, but they can also be the first team in NHL history to sweep the President's Trophy winners in the first round.
Players, coaches and members of the front office across the board continuously said nobody was thinking about last year's 2-0 lead over Washington that vanished in front of the city's eyes on home ice - but the players showed that was not the case. And they did so in the best possible way.
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Nick Foligno and Josh Anderson set the tone with physicality right off the bat. Matt Duchene, Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin were active on the forecheck early and created chances to use their skill from the get-go. Although tied at 0-0 heading into the first intermission, Columbus led 12-3 in shots and it was clear that the team was determined to do more than correct the errs of last season - they are actively trying to bury them.
After keeping the foot on the gas, Columbus cruised to a 3-1 victory in Game 3 and a 3-0 series lead. The Blue Jackets did so in front of the loudest crowd to ever come through Nationwide Arena, and early projections appear as though Game 4 will break building attendance records.
The buzz from the crowd clearly had an impact on the game, as all of the CBJ players were sure to mention.
GAME 4 HUB: Highlights, tweets, and news
Know the Foe
Tampa Bay will likely be without Viktor Hedman, who is listed as "doubtful," for a second consecutive game. Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper also said at practice Monday that it was "too early to tell" the status of forward Alex Killorn, who did not play in the final half of the third period in Game 2.
The Lightning will get the NHL's leading scorer Nikitia Kucherov back for Game 4 after serving his one-game suspension for boarding Markus Nutivaara late in Game 2.
Dropping each game to begin the series to Columbus has Tampa on its first three-game losing streak of the season, and having scored just one goal in the last eight periods has proven visibly frustrating to the top scoring team in the league.
With the return of Kucherov, look for 40-goal scorers Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point to sell out offensively to get the Lightning back on the board in the face of elimination. Columbus will need to keep the foot on the gas because any sort of momentum can spark the Lightning offense as shown in the three goal first period of Game 1.
3 Keys to the Game
Embrace the building: With the majority of the build up surrounding this series leaning heavily in the favor of Tampa Bay, Columbus has set itself up to play ultimate spoiler on home ice in what could end up being an all-time moment for the franchise. The energy in the building allowed Columbus to dominate the early part of Game 3 and take an early lead they went on to defend. The same kind of start could erase any sort hope the Lightning carry into Game 4.
Help Bob stay hot: Sergei Bobrovsky has allowed just two goals over the last eight periods of hockey and posted a .970 SV% over that stretch. If the Blue Jackets can limit Tampa's high-danger chances early to allow Bobrovsky the chance to get in a rhythm, the goaltender could continue to be the series' X-factor.
Keep them frustrated (again): As Game 4 went on, Tampa Bay was the more physical team, but that's not really their game. The Blue Jackets clearly had the Lightning frustrated, and that's because the Jackets were playing in fives and not letting them breathe. That has to continue.
Blue Jackets Projected Lineup*
*Subject to change
Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Ryan Dzingel - Matt Duchene - Cam Atkinson
Alexandre Texier - Nick Foligno - Josh Anderson
Riley Nash - Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Dean Kukan - David Savard
Adam Clendening - Scott Harrington
Scratched: Markus Hannikainen , Lukas Sedlak , Eric Robinson, Alexander Wennberg , Zac Dalpe, Markus Nutivaara (questionable), Adam McQuaid (injured), Andrew Peeke, Vladislav Gavrikov; Keith Kinkaid, Elvis Merzlikins
Roster Report: Columbus called up Zac Dalpe from Cleveland after clinching a spot in the AHL postseason. Tortorella says Dalpe will get a look in practice because the team is "knicked" up front.