As they did in Game Two, the Blue Jackets delivered another strong, defensive performance. They again kept their players back in the neutral zone to limit rush chances for the Lightning. They defended hard in front of their goalie and were effective at taking away the Lightning's time and space in their defensive zone.
While the Blue Jackets maintained the same high level of defending that they displayed in Game Two, the Lightning did a better job of combating it, especially as the game progressed. In the first period, the Lightning had very little offensive zone time. They increased the amount of pressure they applied in the second. Then in the third, the Lightning produced their best period of the series since the first period of Game One. They owned most of the puck possession, recorded 17 shots and scored a goal. Unfortunately, they entered the final period trailing, 2-0, so they weren't able to overcome that deficit. As a result, they now trail the series, three games to none.
The game turned on two second period goals for Columbus. One came following a Lightning d-zone turnover. The other occurred on a Columbus power play, when the Lightning lost their PK structure just enough for Oliver Bjorkstand to get open for a shot from the right circle. He finished a shot into the side of the net past a screened Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Speaking of Vasilevsky, he had his best game of the series. He made some timely saves during a couple of mini-surges for Columbus during the first. He also stopped some isolated counter chances for the Blue Jackets in the third. But the two shots that got past him were enough to propel Columbus to a third straight victory.
The Lightning now have no margin for error. They must win Game Four to extend the series. While the mountain they need to climb is a steep one, there are a few positives they can take into Tuesday's contest. In the third period of this game, the Lightning finally looked like, well, the Lightning. Columbus continued defending hard, but that didn't stop the Lightning from sustaining pressure. The Bolts were skating well and attacking Columbus with speed. They'll need to bring that approach and level of execution into Game Four. As already mentioned, despite the result, Vasilevskiy gave his team a chance to win. He'll need to do that again on Tuesday. Of course, the Lightning will also get back Nikita Kucherov from his one-game suspension. And while Columbus has played very well in the series - and is deserving of a 3-0 lead - the fourth win is the hardest one to get. The Lightning have to show Columbus just how difficult it is to eliminate an opponent.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Matt Duchene - Blue Jackets. Goal.
2. Erik Cernak - Lightning. Assist.
3. Sergei Bobrovsky - Blue Jackets. 30 saves.