The Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning were engaged in one of the most evenly-matched games of the year tonight at Nationwide Arena, but one miscue in the second period proved to be the difference.
Coming off a 5-4 overtime win at home a couple days ago, the Lightning were the quicker team out of the gates and jumped to a 2-0 lead before 20 minutes were in the books. The Blue Jackets were able to pull within a goal on two separate occasions, but couldn’t come up with the tying goal in a 3-2 defeat before 16,108.
Blair Jones scored his second goal of the season at 7:27 of the first period, slamming a Teddy Purcell centering feed into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead. Purcell made the play happen, capitalizing on a loose puck and slipping a nice pass into the crease where Jones was ready to cash in.
The Lightning second goal was generated by their top line's hustle, and it started with Ryan Malone putting pressure on the Columbus defense at the offensive blue line. Steven Stamkos scooped up the puck along the wall, curled at the face-off circle and hit Eric Brewer with a cross-point pass. Brewer’s low slap shot with a rolling puck eluded Steve Mason glove side and gave Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead with 1:48 left in the first period.
R.J. Umberger’s crafty wraparound goal cut the deficit in half at 5:43 of the second, peeling around the cage with Brewer draped all over him and Mathieu Garon way out of position. The Lightning would answer less than five minutes later on Stamkos’ league-leading 20th goal of the year on a broken play in front of Mason. Rick Nash drew his team one goal closer for a second time at 12:14 on yet another wraparound that fooled Garon.
With Mason on the bench and a brief power play late in the third period, the Blue Jackets couldn’t solve Garon for a third time. The Lightning won for the second game in a row, and Columbus fell to 3-2-1 all-time against Tampa Bay at home.
There was considerable momentum on the Blue Jackets’ side after Umberger scored, but giving it right back on the Stamkos goal was a back-breaker. And it came on the most broken of plays: the Blue Jackets looked to be in good shape clearing the crease, but they fumbled the puck below the hashmarks and turned it over to Vincent Lecavalier.
It was a mad scramble to find the puck, but Lecavalier dug it out and fed Stamkos who had an open net.
Columbus has power play goals in three of the last four games (3-of-17, 17.6 percent) after going 1-for-22 (4.5 percent) the previous six games.
The Blue Jackets allowed the first goal of the game for the 16th time this season. The club is now 1-13-2 in those games, while going 1-9-1 when trailing after the first period and 1-10-1 when trailing after two periods.
Umberger has goals in three of the last six games after scoring his sixth of the season tonight. The goals come after he was held to three goals the first 26 games of the season. The goal was his 80th as a Blue Jacket, leaving him eight goals shy of tying Geoff Sanderson for third on the club’s all-time list.
Prospal, who played the 1,000th game of his NHL career Nov. 25 vs. Buffalo, was honored prior to the game for that achievement against his former team. He had two assists in the game to give him points in back-to-back games and five of the last six.
Nash scored his 10th goal of the season in the second period. He has points in five of the last eight games, with 3-2-5 during that stretch. He has 6-4-10 the last 13 games after being held to 1-3-4 the previous 10 games.
Jeff Carter has points in five-straight games after notching an assist on Nash’s goal. It was his first assist in eight games, as he last had a helper Nov. 25 vs. Buffalo. He has collected 4-1-5 during the stretch and also has 7-3-10 the last 13 games.
vs. St. Louis
Scottrade Center | St. Louis, Mo.
Sunday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com