It didn't take long for the NHL playoffs to produce its first shocker. The opening jolt was provided by the Blue Jackets, who spotted a regular-season juggernaut the first three goals before rallying for a 4-3 road victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference playoff series.
Columbus returns to Amalie Arena Friday evening for Game 2 after stunning a sell-out crowd that smelled blood on the ice once Tampa Bay grabbed a 3-0 advantage after one period.
After a few choice words were exchanged in the locker room, the Blue Jackets regrouped and were rewarded midway through the second period with a goal by captain Nick Foligno, who picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and fired a wrist shot past the stick side of Andrei Vasilevskly.
GAME 1 HUB: Highlights, video, and news from Game 1
"They came out flying and we kept chipping away,'' said Foligno, who led all players with eight hits. "We've been an unorthodox team all year long."
The Lightning, who led the league with 128 points, still appeared in command with a 3-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes. David Savard cut that advantage in half with 12:04 remaining when he came down the right side, cut inside reigning Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman and scored his first career playoff goal.
The game turned four minutes later when Josh Anderson skated into the right faceoff circle and tied the score 3-3 while the Blue Jackets were killing off a double-minor against the league's best power play.
Columbus then capitalized on its own manpower advantage as defenseman Seth Jones fired a wrister between the circles for the winning goal with 5:55 left.
"We knew we had to compete a little harder after that first period,'' said Jones, who was victimized on the game's opening goal when he mishandled the puck at the left point, leading to a breakaway short-handed goal by Alex Killorn. "It's awesome when you can get the first win of the series."
Anthony Cirelli and Yanni Gourde also scored for Tampa Bay in the opening 18 minutes, but Columbus shut down the Lightning's top scorers -- Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point.
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Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made some critical saves, including a diving stop on Kucherov in the first minute of the second period while Tampa Bay was on a power play. He also turned away a four-shot flurry in the final 38 seconds of the middle period to keep the Blue Jackets close.
"We got our traction in the second period and found a way to win a hockey game,'' said Columbus coach John Tortorella. "We don't have a chance if he (Bobrovsky) doesn't play the way he played in the last two periods."
The improbable comeback should give Columbus added confidence heading into Game 2. Tampa Bay won all three regular-season matchups, by a combined score of 17-3, and the listless opening period wasn't any better for the underdogs.
"We played with a ton of emotion in the first period and the building was jumping,'' said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "But our mentality was we wanted to outscore them instead of building a lead and shutting them down. Our special teams have been so good this year, but in the
end, special teams let us down."