There’s really only one thing that builds a rivalry. History. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets have plenty of it. After the Jackets swept the Bolts after Tampa Bay’s 128 point season in 2018-19, the Lightning got revenge. They knocked the Blue Jackets out in five games in the first round of the playoffs before hoisting the Stanley Cup in the bubble. No doubt the limited fans inside Amalie Arena, like the players, had a little extra pep in their step Tuesday as the two squared off yet again.
The Lightning were coming off back-to-back losses that surely didn’t sit well heading into this one. Both one-goal defeats in which Tampa Bay squandered a two goal lead and gave up the dagger late. They would look to set the tone early, still minus stalwarts Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak, with Curtis McElhinney getting the start in net against the Jackets.
Jackets under siege to begin
To start the game, the Bolts would generate the first six shots on net and hold the Blue Jackets off the shot clock for the first eleven minutes of the game. The best chance came off the stick of Steven Stamkos, who snuck one through Columbus tender Elvis Merzlikins.
It would find iron, and the game stayed scoreless. Before that, Brayden Point created a couple of dangerous situations by using his speed through the middle of the ice.
The Jackets’ first look was a dangerous one, as a long clear-in skipped off the end wall and landed in front of the net. McElhinney had to be sharp to stave off the ensuing shot.
Columbus finds another gear
To close out the frame, the Blue Jackets had their best shift of the period. They leaned on the Lightning and had their best sustained zone time thus far. However, McElhinney turned away all six shots he faced and it was a scoreless game after twenty minutes.
Jackets break the ice
The Lightning continued to control the pace for the majority of the second period but it was Columbus who got on the board first. A point drive from Zach Werenski was redirected perfectly by Oliver Bjorkstrand. McElhinney didn’t stand a chance, and it was 1-0 for the road team.
Merzlikins stars in the second
After the opening goal, the Lightning continued to lean on the Blue Jackets. The shots following the tally were 8-1 in favour of the Bolts. However, Merzlikins was spectacular to hold Tampa Bay off the board. Then, late in the frame, the second period, as has been a theme lately, continued to give Tampa Bay trouble.
Building the lead late
In the final minute of the frame, Pat Maroon got tangled up with David Savard and brought him to the ice. He was called for a penalty, and Columbus made Tampa pay with the extra attacker during the delayed penalty. It was Savard who scored his first of the season, and first in exactly two years, and gave the Jackets a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.
On the board
The Lightning would get a lucky, but well deserved one in the third. A tip from Mathieu Joseph looked to be going wide of the net and banked off the back of a Jacket defender and in. Tampa Bay had been controlling play the whole period leading up to the goal.
Despite a Stamkos blast from the left circle that was snared by Merzlikins, the Lightning were unable to tie this game up. The final shot tally was 38-21 in favour of Tampa Bay, but they just couldn’t find the equalizer.
Cam Atkinson would add an empty-netter to make it a 3-1 final in favour of the Jackets. The two teams will square off again at Amalie on Thursday night. The loss extends the Tampa Bay losing streak to three games.
Our three stars of the game
- Elvis Merzlikins: Put simply, the reason Columbus comes out with two points tonight.
- David Savard: First goal of the season, a game winner.
- Mathieu Joseph: Continues his hot streak with his third goal in five games.
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