The Tampa Bay Lightning entered Saturday night as the NHL’s second-best offense, scoring an average of 3.62 goals per game. They surpassed that mark in the first 15 minutes of tonight’s game.
It was a nightmare start for the Blue Jackets, who surrendered four goals on 14 shots out of the gate and dug themselves a gargantuan hole before the first period was in the books. They were skating uphill all night long, and even when they found some energy and got a goal back, the Lightning had an answer of their own. It was that kind of night for the Blue Jackets.
LIGHTNING 7 | BLUE JACKETS 4
“(Getting off to a quick start) was a point of emphasis tonight,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “Some guys were ready and others weren’t.”
The two teams traded four goals in six minutes in the second period - both Columbus goals coming off the stick of the red-hot Scott Hartnell - to turn a 4-0 Tampa Bay lead after 20 minutes into a 6-2 game after 40.
Columbus gave it everything in the third period and made for an entertaining finish - they scored twice in the first five minutes of the final frame to make it 6-4 and Nationwide Arena was alive and buzzing. The Blue Jackets out-shot the Lightning 17-5 in the third period, poured in on the forecheck and made it difficult for Tampa to get the puck to center ice.
“We put our work boots on this week,” Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno said. “But we’re not doing this consistently. We’re not a team that should be giving up seven goals. We’re playing reactionary hockey.”
Ryan Johansen scored his first goal since Oct. 23 in San Jose (when he scored twice in a 5-4 Blue Jackets win) to make it 6-3 at 1:01 of the third period, and then at 5:10, Foligno scored off a terrific pass from James Wisniewski.
But that was all she wrote for the rally, which was furious and prolonged for most of the third period and at times had the feeling of something nearly improbable. Tyler Johnson scored into an empty net at 19:09 to cap the scoring, locking up the Lightning’s fifth straight win and sending the Blue Jackets to their eighth straight loss.
The two goals scored by the Lightning in the second period were the biggest of the game, restoring a four-goal lead and giving them enough breathing room to withstand the Jackets’ rally. Hindsight being what it is, but this may have been a far different game at 4-2 going to the third period.
1 - Ryan Callahan (TBL)
2 - Scott Hartnell (CBJ)
3 - JT Brown (TBL)
at Washington Capitals
Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET