TAMPA -- Curtis McElhinney made 24 saves for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 3-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Amalie Arena on Thursday.
Blake Coleman scored twice for the Lightning (31-14-2), who are 3-2-0 on a six-game homestand. Tampa Bay is one point behind the Florida Panthers for second place and three points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the eight-team Discover Central Division.
"Obviously it's been a little up and down the last couple of games for us, trying to find our groove," McElhinney said. "Nice for me to get in there and get a win for the team, a big win for us moving forward."
Seth Jones scored for the Blue Jackets (15-25-9), who were eliminated from playoff contention with an eighth straight loss. Elvis Merzlikins made 25 saves.
"I think we played good ... I'm tired of losing the games," Merzlikins said. "I know we're trying, but this is getting embarrassing. It is what it is. I'm going to be honest with you, it's painful sitting in that locker room. And trust me, we are trying, we seriously are trying. We didn't give up."
Video: CBJ@TBL: Gourde steals puck and sets up Coleman goal
Jones gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 9:36 of the first period, a shot from the point with Jack Roslovic setting a screen.
"I'm going to take that shot when it's there," Jones said. "I have no problem shooting the puck in the middle. One-timers like that … you don't get those opportunities too often right from the middle. They made a mistake and we took advantage of it."
Coleman tied it 1-1 at 14:51 of the second period with a shot from the right face-off circle that Merzlikins got a piece of before it went in the net.
"Guys like to score, that's the bottom line," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Good for Blake. He's, like [Ondrej] Palat too, they expect a lot from themselves. It's good to see the guys working hard and getting rewarded."
Merzlikins said he felt like Lightning forward Alex Killorn should have been called for interference after his stick appeared to hit the goalie in the face.
"Obviously you don't feel good when you get a stick in your neck," Merzlikins said. "I don't know how I'm supposed to save that. Like you get the stick in your neck and ... I really don't want to talk about it."
Merzlikins said he did not get an explanation from the officials. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella was also upset about the goal and abruptly left his postgame press availability.
"Can't challenge it," Tortorella said. "Should be a penalty, a high-sticking penalty."
Palat made it 2-1 at 8:14 of the third period with a shot off an assist from Killorn.
"Always feels kind of nice and I haven't scored for a while (13 games)," Palat said. "I was just trying to stick with it and work hard. You know, keep it simple and shoot the puck. I'm happy it went in."
Coleman scored an empty-net goal at 19:35 for the 3-1 final.
The teams complete a two-game set here Sunday.
"It was just a weird game, the first period nothing was going on," Cooper said. "But [Tortorella] has been in this league for a long time and he's a [heck] of a coach. A lot of regulars are out of his lineup and he's got the guys fighting hard. They are a tough team to play against."
NOTES: Palat had not scored since March 25 against the Dallas Stars. He has scored 13 goals this season. ... Five of Coleman's 10 goals have been scored against Columbus. ... Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand had an assist to extend his point streak to four games (one goal, three assists). ... Killorn has scored five points (two goals, three assists) in the past five games.
Video: Coleman lifts Lightning past Blue Jackets, 3-1