Three minutes into the second period, Scott Hartnell got a piece of Dalton Prout’s shot from the right point – redirecting it past Ben Bishop to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead.
Coming off a solid first period of 14 shots on goal and plenty of time in the offensive zone, the visitors looked fresh, energized and ready to start the unofficial “second half” on a positive note. But after Hartnell’s go-ahead goal, the Blue Jackets paraded en masse to the penalty box and the game quickly eluded them.
They took three penalties in a span of three seconds, handing the Lightning over two minutes of 5-on-3 power play time and they did not let the opportunity go by the wayside. Steven Stamkos scored twice, turning a deficit into a lead that Tampa Bay wouldn’t relinquish in a 5-2 victory at Amalie Arena.
Considering where the game was and where it ended up, it’s a particularly frustrating and disappointing result for Columbus.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” said forward Rene Bourque. “The second period killed us again. We didn’t have the push we needed in the third period to get back into it. We took some dumb penalties, and it’s unfortunate that it was the difference.”
“You just can’t do that in this league,” center Ryan Johansen added. “Guys are too good.”
Despite giving up the opening goal for the second game in a row, the Blue Jackets bounced back and got an important goal midway through the first period courtesy of Bourque, who was outstanding out of the gate with five shots on goal in the first 20 minutes.
Ryan Murray made a nice play to let the puck go through to Boone Jenner, who spun and ripped a shot on goal from the high slot, catching Bourque’s skate on the way into the net.
Another deflection gave the Blue Jackets their only lead at 3:07 of the second.
Prout received the puck at the right point and quickly sent it toward the Lightning net, and not one but two deflections – first from Alex Wennberg and then Hartnell – got the puck by Bishop. At that point, the Blue Jackets looked a confident group, skating and creating chances, but the penalty barrage derailed it all.
As the first 5-on-3 segment came to a close, Stamkos buried the tying goal from the low left circle. That goal came at 6:21 of the second period, and 32 seconds later, Stamkos added another to give the Lightning the lead for good.
With the puck in his usual spot in the left circle, Stamkos waited patiently and made a quick fake pass, getting Joonas Korpisalo to bite ever so slightly. The ensuing wrist shot slid through the goalie’s pads to make it a 3-2 game.
Nikita Nesterov bumped the Tampa lead to 4-2 later in the second period and Jason Garrison, on a 2-on-1 rush, beat Curtis McElhinney (who played the third period in relief of Korpisalo) for a three-goal final margin.
“I thought we had complete control of the game (until the penalties),” coach John Tortorella said. “I’ve never seen that before, and certainly, that was the beginning of the end for us. We’ve got to figure it out. We got the lead, and immediately after, we gave up two odd-man rushes and then we take three penalties.
“Those are the types of things that have really defined us, at least since I’ve been here, that we’ve put ourselves in that spot. We give too many things for free.”