Congratulations to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who played excellent hockey during the series and were deserving of the victory. For the Lightning, of course, this is a shocking and disappointing result. Here are some takeaways from this particular game, one that differed in a number of ways from the previous three.
- In terms of attacking the Columbus zone and generating scoring chances, this was likely the Lightning's best game of the series. At the same time, it was their roughest defensive performance. For long stretches during the first two periods, they struggled with puck management and had coverage issues, both off the rush and in the d-zone. In fact, on the very first shift of the game, they failed to clear their zone and ended up taking a penalty. Columbus scored on the ensuing power play, moments after Lightning penalty killers couldn't execute a clear. Coverage problems continued through the end of the second period, as the Blue Jackets produced a high volume of dangerous chances.
- The Lightning also had some good offensive zone sequences. They put three pucks past Sergei Bobrovsky and had several other close calls. But in the third period, with his team holding a 4-3 lead, Bobrovsky closed the door. He made several key stops, including a point-blank tip from Brayden Point.
- Following each of their three goals, the Lightning endured breakdowns and didn't build on the momentum gained from scoring. While they didn't get burned after the first two tallies, they did on the final one. Brayden Point had scored a power play goal late in the second to tie the game at three. But on the next shift, the Lightning took an offensive zone penalty, then allowed a sixth-attacker goal. It was the eventual game-winner and it came just 54 seconds after Point had tied the score. Obviously, it was a pivotal turning point in the game.
So this was a much more wide-open game than any of the previous three. The Lightning did well to create more looks than they had in earlier games - particularly Games Two and Three. But their defensive struggles were also more pronounced. And when Columbus needed to make a key play, the Blue Jackets did. They got the early lead, so they never had to play from behind. They immediately answered the Point goal with a tally of their own, so the Lightning entered the second intermission down by one, instead of being tied. And then the Blue Jackets hung on in the third, thanks to some timely Bobrovsky saves. They eventually sealed the win for the game - and the series - with three late empty-netters.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Pierre-Luc Dubois - Blue Jackets. Goal and two assists.
2. Braydon Coburn - Lightning. Assist.
3. Sergei Bobrovsky - Blue Jackets. 30 saves.