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Lightning build early lead, hold off Blue Jackets

by Rick Gethin

COLUMBUS -- Fifteen players had at least one point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 7-4 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday.

Tampa Bay, which has won five in a row, led 4-0 14:41 into the game.

"We did what we had to do," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I thought we came out strong, and they played last night. We built up a 4-0 lead and I think that's what you have to do to win a hockey game. And that's what we did, we ended up winning a hockey game."

Columbus, which lost 3-2 in overtime at the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, its eighth in a row, was tentative with the puck, as if it was waiting for something bad to happen. By spending too much time in its own zone, the Blue Jackets made it very easy for the Lightning to dictate the pace.

"In the first period we were chasing, and we did a lot of it," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "There were mistakes, too many simple mistakes. Some guys were ready and some guys weren't. And it showed."

Lightning forward J.T. Brown opened the scoring at 5:46 of the first period after Blue Jackets goaltender Anton Forsberg gave up a rebound in the slot. Brown chipped the puck over the glove of Forsberg.

Twenty-one seconds later, after another rebound by Forsberg, Cedric Paquette found the puck on his stick for his third goal in his past two games.

"Part of me wanted to go, 'Here we go again,'" Brown said of missing a goal on his first shift. "But, sure enough, the next shift another opportunity came. I'm just happy that it went in."

With Dalton Prout in the penalty box for tripping, Tampa Bay went on the power play. Steven Stamkos shot from above the circle, hitting Ryan Callahan before Anton Stralman chipped it in for a 3-0 lead at 12:31.

"That first 15 minutes was probably the best hockey we've played this year," Stralman said. "At the end of the day, we'll take the two points and go."

Tampa Bay increased its lead to 4-0 on a Brian Boyle goal, with assists to Brenden Morrow and Brown. After the game, Boyle acknowledged the Lightning may have let up a little too much, allowing the Blue Jackets to make a run.

"The margin of error is way too small," Boyle said. "So, if little things like talking or taking two or three extra strides to get in position to catch a pass … you know, we worked hard to get our goals. It wasn't easy getting our goals."

The Lightning outshot the Blue Jackets 15-4 in the first period.

"I think we need to focus on finding a way to be the team that we know we can be," Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno said. "We did some good things at the end but, 4-0 … I mean you have nothing to lose. That seems to be the way we play. When we have nothing to lose, we play hard and play well. It's really disappointing because we're a better team than we're showing."

The Blue Jackets scored when Scott Hartnell tipped a James Wisniewski shot past Evgeni Nabokov for a power-play goal 4:11 into the second period.

Ryan Callahan scored for Tampa Bay at 5:38 before Hartnell scored his second power-play goal to make it 5-2. It was Hartnell's second straight two-goal game.

Tyler Johnson increased the Tampa Bay lead to 6-2 with a power-play goal at 10:05.

Johansen got the Blue Jackets within 6-3 at 1:01 of the third period, and Foligno tapped a loose puck past Nabokov at 5:10 to make it 6-4.

Johnson scored into an empty net with 51 seconds to go.

"They played hard. They're a proud team," Cooper said of the Blue Jackets. "They're going through a down time right now with a lot of injuries.

"Give them a lot of credit. They gutted it out till the end. But we pulled it out and took advantage of a tired team. Learn from it and move on. We grabbed the two points. Now let's get out of here and go (play at the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday)."

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