This was an important and gutsy win for the Lightning. Important because it ended their 0-2-1 skid, propelled them back into a second place tie in the division with the Florida Panthers and allowed them to maintain a lead on the hungry teams behind them in the Eastern Conference Standings. Gutsy because they played most of the game with only nine forwards, after they lost Valtteri Filppula and Nikita Kucherov to injuries during the first and second periods.
In their Friday night loss to Philadelphia, the Lightning bemoaned the fact that they had passed up some shots and instead tried to make “cute” plays – plays that ultimately didn’t even result in a shot. They began this game, however, with a shoot-first approach. The Lightning posted the first 11 shots on goal and had 15 of the game’s first 17 shots. Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made a number of excellent first period saves to keep the Lightning off the board. The Blue Jackets didn’t generate much sustained pressure until the closing minutes of the period, when they received a power play chance. They did put the puck in the net during that man advantage, but the goal was waived off because Boone Jenner had made contact with Ben Bishop before the puck went in.
As a whole, the first period was an excellent one for the Lightning. But they failed to score and entering the second, had been limited to just one goal in the prior seven periods. They finally broke through nearly five and a half minutes into the second. It took a lucky break to set in motion the sequence that led to Steven Stamkos’ 30th goal of the season. Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin slipped as he attempted to play the puck at his own blue line. Recognizing that Stamkos was close to him, he alertly pushed the puck behind his own net and eventually retrieved it. But Alex Killorn checked Tyutin, forcing a turnover. Kucherov collected the puck at the right circle and set up Stamkos in the slot. Stamkos’ one-timer beat Bobrovsky on the glove side.
Columbus had its best and most sustained pressure of the game during the second half of the second period. It coincided with the Lightning losing Kucherov to injury – Columbus defenseman Dalton Prout sucker punched Kucherov during a post-whistle scrum. The Lightning, who had dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the game, were already without Filppula, who had sustained an injury in the first period. Down to nine forwards, the Lightning spent much of the final 10 minutes of the second back on their heels. Bishop made several key stops, however, including two point blank chances for Nick Foligno. That helped the Lightning get out of the second period with their 1-0 lead intact.
The Blue Jackets fired 16 shots on net in the second. They also had 16 shots in the third. But even though they carried most of the puck possession early in the third, they weren’t able to generate as many scoring chances as they did in the second. Many of their shots were innocent attempts from long range. Bishop was effective in making those saves and holding onto pucks. This strategy did result in a number of defensive zone faceoffs for the Lightning, but it also allowed them avoid extended shifts. As the third period approached the halfway point, Tyler Johnson disrupted a Prout outlet pass and set up Vladdy Namestnikov at the right circle. Namestnikov whistled a quick shot past Bobrovsky to give the Lightning an insurance goal. That took much of the wind out of the Blue Jackets’ sails. The Bolts took a penalty on the shift after Namestnikov’s goal and later, a four-minute high sticking double minor. But the penalty killers were effective in limiting Columbus’ chances and, for the first time since 2003, the Bolts scored multiple shorthanded goals in the same game. Stamkos and Ondrej Palat teamed up on both, extending the Lightning lead to 4-0.
There were a number of key elements to this win. The Lightning scored first, which allowed them to play with the lead. The penalty kill went 5-5 and scored two shorthanded goals. Bishop was terrific when the Blue Jackets surged in the second period. And give credit to the depleted unit of nine forwards for how hard they battled after the injuries to Filppula and Kucherov.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Namestnikov’s goal, which gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead in the third period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. Shutout win with 37 saves. 14th shutout with the Lightning, tied for first all-time with Nikolai Khabibulin.
2.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Two goals and assist.
3.Vladdy Namestnikov – Lightning. Goal.