Associate Coach Rick Bowness joined us on Lightning Radio for an interview during the second intermission of this game. In describing how the Lightning got through a second period Columbus power play – an advantage that yielded six shots for the Blue Jackets – Bowness said, “We didn’t kill that penalty. We survived it.”
“Surviving” is an apt word for the Lightning’s game as a whole on Saturday. For most of the night, they were unable to match Columbus’ urgency. As a result, the Lightning spent much of the game back on their heels, defending in their own zone. They held onto pucks too long (and were either stripped of those pucks or forced into low percentage plays) and didn’t utilize their speed to attack the Columbus end. But fortunately for the Lightning, goalie Ben Bishop had a spectacular game. He finished with 34 saves – and many of those came on dangerous Columbus scoring chances. By Phil Esposito’s count, Bishop made at least seven phenomenal saves, plus a number of high quality stops on other Columbus shots. Without his performance, the Lightning would have been hard-pressed to win the game.
But win the game they did, their franchise-record 10th straight at home. They broke a scoreless tie with a goal in the final minute of the first period – the second straight contest in which they’ve scored in the first period’s last minute. At the left point in the offensive zone, Jason Garrison knocked down a clearing attempt and hurried the puck to Brendan Morrow in the left corner. Morrow one-timed a touch pass in front to Brett Connolly, who chipped it past Curtis McElhinney.
But the going remained tough for the Lightning until they netted their second goal, which came halfway through the third period. It was a four-shot sequence off the rush. Jonathan Drouin brought the puck down the left wing and took the first shot from close range. Alex Killorn put the rebound back on net. Drouin whacked at the second rebound. And Cedric Paquette banged home the third one. That goal sparked the Lightning, who finally started to dictate play. They got a dominant shift from the Tyler Johnson- Nikita Kucherov-Ondrej Palat line off the ensuring faceoff. That unit pinned the Columbus players back in the d-zone for well over a minute. Eventually, the Johnson line changed, but the tired Blue Jackets couldn’t. An errant Columbus pass in the neutral zone banked off the skate of Nick Foligno back into the Columbus end. Valtteri Filppula picked it up and wristed a shot past McElhinney’s stick.
The Lightning continued to carry play until the Blue Jackets pulled McElhinney with about four minutes left. Ryan Johansen netted a sixth-attacker goal with 3:26 remaining. Less than a minute later, Columbus received a power play and, with McElhinney still on the bench, enjoyed a six-on-four power play. But the Lightning defended well, killing off the infraction and then closing out the game. It was a strong finish to a contest in which the Lightning had to lean heavily on Bishop for most of the first two and a half periods.
A tough schedule awaits the Bolts in February. The month begins with a game Tuesday in St. Louis. The Bolts know they’ll have to play better than they did against the Blue Jackets if they hope to extend their winning streak to three.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Bishop’s key saves throughout the game.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 34 saves.
2.Cedric Paquette – Lightning. GWG.
3.Brandon Dubinsky – Blue Jackets. Solid overall game. Won 57% of faceoffs.