The Blue Jackets and Lightning last met (prior to tonight) on Dec. 6 at Amalie Arena, and it was a game featured a heavy dose of Sergei Bobrovsky. Columbus’ starting goaltender was terrific, at times frustrating a high-scoring Lightning club and yielding only a late third-period goal that was inconsequential to the outcome.
BLUE JACKETS 1 | LIGHTNING 3
Tonight, the shoe was on the other foot.
Ben Bishop stole the show for the Lightning, making 34 saves including a 16-for-16 performance in the second period to maintain a 1-0 lead for the home team. Tampa led 3-0 deep in the third period and, despite a Ryan Johansen goal with 3:26 left in regulation, held on for a 3-1 victory to set a franchise record with its 10th consecutive home ice win.
The first period was a strong one for the visitors, who clearly did their homework on the Lightning, disrupting Tampa’s transition game and standing up through the neutral zone. If the Bolts wanted to generate offense, the Blue Jackets were making them come 200 feet up the ice.
But a turnover late in the first period resulted in a bang-bang play in front of the net, with veteran Brenden Morrow setting up Brett Connolly for a re-direct over Curtis McElhinney’s glove inside the final 30 seconds of the period.
“We would’ve liked to get through the first period 0-0,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “We had pucks on our sticks and couldn’t execute.”
They kept pushing though, and did so despite being shorthanded. Matt Calvert came down with an illness prior to the game, forcing veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold into the lineup playing left wing on the fourth line. Columbus went with new-look defense pairs to accommodate the return of Ryan Murray, and for the most part, did well in defending Tampa’s high-octane offense.
“We had some good opportunities and did some good things really all game,” Richards said. “They’re a very good hockey team, a fast team, and I thought our compete and battle was there. We gave them two goals. They’re a good enough team on their own, and we turned it over (twice) and it ends up in our net.”
Down 2-0 in the third period, the Blue Jackets got caught flat-footed in their own end and the result was a length shift for the Lightning, who came in waves seeking an insurance tally. A miscue on the zone exit by Columbus turned the puck over to Valtteri Filppula, who soared in down the right wing and zipped a quick shot inside the far post on McElhinney, stretching Tampa’s lead to 3-0 and putting the home team in total control.
vs. Arizona Coyotes
Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET