What a night in Nationwide Arena.
Columbus was rocking Sunday, and the Blue Jackets came through for the city, downing Tampa Bay by a 3-1 score in front of a packed sellout crowd to take a 3-0 series lead on the Bolts in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There have been similar crowds, similar big games, but rarely a moment quite like the dying seconds, as the crowd sang along to the Beastie Boys while celebrating the victory. The Blue Jackets had fought for their right to party and brought the 19,000-plus in Nationwide Arena along with them.
Three thoughts about the win, which gives the Jackets the franchise's first-ever 3-0 playoff series lead, follow.
Video: John Tortorella on Game 3 win
1. Can you hear me now? There was little doubt the crowd was into it from the time Leo Welsh was welcomed with his standard greeting, and by the end, those who have been around the team from start to finish couldn't help but marvel at the noise produced by the 19,224 in attendance.
Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky completed the evening by saluting the crowd as they were recognized as being among the three stars of the game, and each was particularly effusive when asked about the atmosphere postgame.
"It was an amazing atmosphere tonight," Bobrovsky said. "Our fans gave us so much energy. It was fun to play tonight. It was crazy."
"These fans have blown me away from the start," Duchene said. "Seeing them night in and night out, they've been great through the regular season and tonight, that was outstanding. I was pretty fired up skating out there at the end. The energy that they brought, that's the kind of stuff you dream about a s a kid. That's why you play the game. That's why you get up every morning. That's why you put the time in during the summer. I know we're all grateful to them for their support."
There is always the worry that the energy can be too much and overhype a team, resulting in some sloppiness, but that wasn't the case for the Blue Jackets.
"I like the way we approached it," head coach John Tortorella said. "I thought we handled ourselves very well."
2. Clendening debuts: Adam Clendening is racking up so many frequent flyer miles he might own an airline soon.
The defenseman flew to New York and Ottawa with the Blue Jackets last week, went to Cleveland to play for the Monsters on Monday, flew to Tampa on Tuesday to be with the Jackets for Wednesday's Game 1, then returned to Cleveland for a game Thursday. Then it was back to Tampa to join the Blue Jackets for Game 2, then he flew home with the team after the game.
Video: Adam Clendening steps in during Game 3 against TBL
But all that travel had a benefit - it kept the team's seventh defenseman in game shape, and so he was ready to go Sunday when Markus Nutivaara was unable to play with an upper-body injury. It was just Clendening's fifth game with the Jackets this year and his first-ever NHL postseason game.
"It's no secret that the game was important, but at the same time, I think going to Cleveland and playing those games allow you to just step in and play your game and approach it the way it is," he said. "It's the game of hockey still. There might be a little bit more meaning to the game, but I try to approach it the same way. For my first one and the stage, I thought it went well. We won the game. That's all that matters."
Clendening, who has 37 points in 45 games this year with Cleveland, ended up playing 9:16 and had three shots on goal, all in the first period. He was mostly paired with Scott Harrington and showed no hesitation in his game, jumping into the play at times on the offensive end.
"He handled himself very well," Tortorella said. "There was a couple of times where they got caught in the end zone, but I thought he did a really good job for a guy that's been shuttling back and forth to Cleveland and then coming back here to play."
3. Surging Sergei: Perhaps now all the comments about Bobrovsky and the playoffs can finally be put aside.
For the third straight game the Blue Jackets goaltender was outstanding, this time turning aside 30 of 31 shots. He now has stopped 69 of 71 in the last eight periods of action, and Bobrovsky was at his best in the third as Tampa Bay sent 17 shots his way.
"It's a tough game for Bob to play tonight because he didn't have much action," Tortorella said. "I thought we played really well away from the puck for a lot of the first 40 minutes, and then they ramped it up. We have a really good goalie. You don't get to this time of year without a really good goalie to get in, and you don't win playoff games without your goalie. I thought he stood really big in those 10-12 minutes there where they turned it up."
Bobrovsky was calm in net throughout and that seemed to translate to the guys in front of him as well. It's a symbiotic relationship right now, with the goaltender playing in a way that compliments the guys in front of him, and the guys in front of him both blocking shots and clearing paths so he can see the puck to make his job easier as well.
"They allow me to see and just concentrate on the shot and they take care of everything," Bobrovsky said. "The guys helped me a lot out there. It's a huge team win."