TAMPA-- The Columbus Blue Jackets scored three goals in the third period to overcome a slow start & beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in Game One of the First Round of the Eastern Conference Playoff Series on Wednesday night.
Tampa Bay entered the first round of the playoffs having finished the regular season with a goal differential of +103, the second highest mark of any team in the past two decades. Meanwhile, Columbus needed all of 81 games to secure their playoff berth. But less than three mintues into the game, they had the game's first man advantage after Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Girardi was called for a check to the head of Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky.
During the Blue Jackets' power play, the Lightning scored the first goal of the series when center Alex Killorn picked up a loose puck after a mishandle by defenseman Seth Jones at the blue line & broke in beating Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with a backhand.
The physical play between the two teams continued with much of the action in the next seven minutes taking place within the blue lines. But eventually, the Lightning were able to apply pressure on Bobrovsky, leading to their second goal. It started with a shot from the point by defenseman Eric Cernak that the Blue Jackets goalie was not able to handle & center Anthony Cirelli skated between two Blue Jackets, grabbed the puck & lifted it over Bobrovsky, making the score 2-0.
Tampa Bay continued to get quality scoring chances on Bobrovsky & the deficit for Columbus became three goals after another shot from the point, this time by defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was tipped by forward Yanni Gourde.
Tampa Bay outshot Columbus 13 to six in the first period, but looking to avoid an insurmountable four goal deficit, Columbus came out more aggressive in the second period. That pressure along with bad puck management & several giveaways by Tampa Bay led to Vasilevskiy having to make quality saves. But less than 10 minutes into the middle period, Columbus got on the scoreboard after a pass by defenseman Ryan McDonagh, in the Tampa Bay offensive zone, was deflected, picked up near center ice by Nick Foligno & the Columbus forward came in alone, snapping a puck past Vasilevskiy into the net.
The second period ended with both teams getting 11 shots on goal & Tampa Bay leading by two goals. But the deficit for Columbus could have been larger if not for Bobrovsky, who struggled in the first period but bounced back to make outstanding saves on both forward Nikita Kucherov & center Steven Stamkos before the period ended.
Leading by two goals, the Lightning were only able to register two shots on goal within the first seven minutes of the third period. And with just under eight minutes gone in the period, the Blue Jackets got within a goal after their defenseman David Savard got around Victor Hedman, faking to the middle of the ice & beating Vasilevskiy, making the score 3-2.
Less than two minutes after Savard's goal, Columbus was hit with a four minute high-sticking penalty, given to Dubinsky. But while killing that penalty, Columbus scored the game's second short-handed goal when their forward Josh Anderson was able to convert on a rush up ice, shooting the puck into the net past Vasilevskiy, while the goaltender may had been interfered with by Stamkos, his own teammate.
The Lightning still had nearly 90 seconds of power play from the high-sticking penalty but their man advantage was wiped away when Killorn received his own high-sticking penalty inside the offensive zone. And that man advantage for the Blue Jackets led to a wrist shot by Jones, beating Vasilevskiy for the game-winning goal with just under six minutes left in the game.
Tampa Bay will look to even the series on Friday when the two teams face-off in Game Two. Coverage on News Radio WFLA begins with the pre-game at 6pm, with puck drop scheduled for 7pm.
1. SHG- TBL- Killorn 1st (Unassisted)- 4:12
2. TBL- Cirelli 1st (Cernak, Miller)- 11:01
3. TBL- Gourde 1st (Sergachev, Rutta)- 17:50
1. CLS- Foligno 1st (Anderson)- 9:15
1. CLS- Savard 1st (Unassisted)- 7:56
2. SHG- CLS- Anderson 1st (Jenner)- 11:54
3. PPG- CLS- Jones (Panarin, Werenski)- 14:05
1. TBL- Girardi (Check To The Head 2 Mins)- 2:55
2. CLS- Dubinsky (Roughing 2 Mins)- 2:55
3. TBL- Girardi (Roughing 2 Mins)- 2:55
4. CLS- Savard (Interference 2 Mins)- 19:27
1. CLS- Dubinsky (High-Sticking 4 Mins)- 9:23
2. TBL- Killorn (High-Sticking 2 Mins)- 12:16