Obviously, this was a very disappointing loss for the Lightning - and a reminder of how difficult it is to win playoff games. After a strong first period, one in which they built a 3-0 lead, the Lightning surrendered four unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes, including three in the third.
So Game One was, at its essence, a tale of two games. The Lightning used crisp puck management, an aggressive forecheck and a shooting mentality in the first to gain their lead. Particularly in the second half of the first period, the Lightning owned most of the puck possession and applied consistent pressure on Columbus. Alex Killorn's early shorthanded goal came off a steal and breakaway. Anthony Cirelli's rebound tally occurred moments after J.T. Miller blocked a Columbus clearing attempt. And the Yanni Gourde deflection goal similarly took place after the Lightning prevented the Blue Jackets from getting pucks out of their own end. In addition, Sergei Bobrovsky looked shaky in the first - not only did he allow the three goals, he was fighting pucks for much of the frame. Defenseman Markus Nutivaara saved another potential goal, when he knocked a puck off the goal line after it slid through Bobrovsky.
In the second period, however, the script flipped. The Blue Jackets picked up their game and the Lightning dipped. Columbus was aggressive physically, won lots of puck battles and did a good job taking away the Lightning's time and space. At the same time, the Lightning struggled with puck management. As a result, Columbus enjoyed a big possession advantage in the period. A Lightning turnover in the offensive zone led to Nick Foligno's breakaway goal, getting Columbus on the board. Interestingly, even though the Lightning spent most of the period defending in their own end, they did post 11 shots and generated several Grade-A chances. Bobrovsky bounced back strongly in the second, however, and kept the Lightning off the board.
Columbus' three third period goals all came on prime scoring chances. On the first two of those, the Blue Jackets capitalized on Lightning turnovers and scored off the rush. The third was a power play goal moments after the Lightning couldn't execute a clear. The Blue Jackets also delivered a strong defensive performance in the third. They kept up their physical play and didn't allow the Lightning to spend much time in the offensive zone. Certainly, a big swing came during the Lightning's four-minute power play. Up 3-2 with a chance to extend their lead, the Lightning managed only one shot during the man advantage. They allowed Josh Anderson's shorthanded goal, took a penalty on the next shift (ending the rest of their power play chance) and allowed the eventual winner on the ensuing Columbus power play.
So credit the Blue Jackets for turning the game around after the first. They put on their work boots and chipped away at the deficit. But the Lightning also contributed to the narrative - they didn't maintain the standard that they set in the first. They'll need to play to that standard in Friday's Game Two.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Sergei Bobrovsky - Blue Jackets. Did not allow a goal in second and third.
2. David Savard - Blue Jackets - Goal.
3. Anthony Cirelli - Lightning. Goal.