Following a stunning Game 1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in which they blew a three-goal lead in a game for the first time since December 2015, the Tampa Bay Lightning used the phrase “puck management” as something they needed to improve upon in Game 2. Tampa Bay got sloppy over the final 40 minutes of Game 1 and knew that couldn’t happen again.
Unfortunately for the Lightning, the story of Game 1’s final two periods carried over into Game 2. As a result, the Presidents’ Trophy winners face a shocking 2-0 series deficit.
Matt Duchene scored the first playoff goal of his 10-year NHL career while also chipping in three assists, and five different Blue Jackets scored goals as Columbus defeated Tampa Bay 5-1 in Game 2 at Amalie Arena. The Blue Jackets, who have never won a playoff series in franchise history, now own a 2-0 series after two road games for the second straight year. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 23 of 24 shots for the Jackets, while Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed five goals on 27 Columbus shots.
Columbus put on a dominant, suffocating effort, and when the Lightning made a push late in the game, the Blue Jackets put it away with a pair of goals late in the third period. It’s a result that has turned the hockey world on its head, especially since almost nobody gave the Jackets much of a chance at winning this series. Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point failed to register a point for the second consecutive game.
The Blue Jackets came to play early on and the Lightning had no answers.
In Game 1, the Lightning roared off to a 3-0 lead before slowly letting the lead get away in an eventual 4-3 loss. During tonight’s game, it was the Blue Jackets who dictated the pace early on, as they out-skated and outplayed the Lightning for about the first 12 minutes of the period. Much like the final 40 minutes of Game 1, the Lightning were turnover-prone and careless with their puck management. On top of that, they also didn’t generate much in the way of high-quality chances despite owning their share of puck possession in Columbus’s zone. The Lightning looked nervous, tentative, and didn’t create much havoc in front of Bobrovsky.
Cam Atkinson put the Jackets up 1-0 at 5:15 when he redirected a Duchene pass after Duchene won a battle for the puck along the boards with J.T. Miller. Columbus also created a few other high-caliber looks by creating turnovers, forcing Vasilevskiy to make a couple of big saves. Following a neutral zone turnover by Mathieu Joseph leading to a chance off the rush for Riley Nash, Ondrej Palat took a hooking penalty to slow him down. It only took three seconds after the ensuing faceoff win for the Blue Jackets to go up 2-0. Duchene won the faceoff and Zach Werenski wired a shot from the point past Vasilevskiy at 11:44.
Tampa Bay showed some life with 4:49 remaining in the first as Point dropped the gloves with Werenski after Josh Anderson hogtied Yanni Gourde after the whistle. The scrap sparked the Bolts, who played faster and with more physicality during that time. However, it was clear there was work to be done going into the intermission.
Despite showing a few signs of life at the end of the first, the Lightning fell into a deeper hole.
The Bolts continued to display a concerning lack of ability to do much with the puck when they had possession in the Blue Jackets’ zone. They continued to stay around the perimeter and didn’t create traffic in front of the net, in addition to not generating enough rebound and follow-up chances. Alex Killorn took an offensive zone penalty for interference just 30 seconds in, and 58 seconds later, the Jackets cashed in again. Duchene scored on a rebound in front for this first career playoff goal to increase Columbus’s lead to 3-0.
Tampa Bay later earned their first power play, but failed to do much with it with the exception of a Stamkos one-timer that Bobrovsky got a piece of. The Lightning’s best chance came with about five minutes left in the period when Tyler Johnson missed an open net. Other than that, Columbus controlled the action, playing smart, disciplined, structured hockey that minimized chances for Tampa Bay. The officials also let some things go that might normally get called in the regular season. However, at this point, that’s the norm in the playoffs.
Tampa Bay breaks the shutout bid
The Lightning slowly began showing some more signs of life in the third period, highlighted early on by Stamkos fanning on a shot that still would’ve gone in if it hadn’t hit the skate of Point. However, Mikhail Sergachev finally ended Bobrovsky’s shutout bid at the 5:00 mark when his shot from the point deflected into the net off the skate of Markus Nutivaara, cutting the Blue Jackets’ lead to 3-1. Soon after, the Lightning found themselves with a power play chance following a tripping penalty on Nick Foligno. Despite the opportunity to close the gap, Tampa Bay did nothing with it.
The Jackets pour it on
Columbus’s final two goals were a microcosm of the opening two games of this series. Sergachev got outworked along the boards by Boone Jenner, who fed the puck into the high slot for Riley Nash, who buried if for a 4-1 lead. Artemi Panarin capped it off to make it 5-1 when he completed a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play in which Duchene earned his third assist and fourth point of the night. In the process, he made Columbus playoff history:
Matt Duchene collected 1-3—4 to establish a @BlueJacketsNHL record for most points in a postseason game.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 13, 2019
Soon after that, things got ugly. A frustrated Kucherov sparked a brawl after tripping and boarding Nutivaara. The officials subsequently ejected Kucherov from the game, encapsulating a frustrating night for the Lightning. In fact, it remains to be seen whether or not he gets a call from the Department of Player Safety after that play.
The puck drops for Game 3 on Sunday night at 7 pm at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
-The Blue Jackets are 3-for-6 on the power play in this series. The Lightning are 0-for-5.
-Since Game 4 of last season’s Eastern Conference Final, Kucherov is pointless in five of those six games.
-Columbus’s nine goals in this series have been scored by nine different players.
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