Sunday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets would be a good test for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite their spot in the standings, the structured Jackets would force the Bolts to be focused on one thing: details. Fine-tuning their game.
The game wrapped up a six-game home-stand for the Bolts, their longest of the season. The Bolts beat the Jackets 3-1 on Thursday night. Jon Cooper admitted they needed more offense, as the team has hovered around .500 in the month of April. However, in the first period against the Jackets, the defensive side 0f the game was the stumbling block.
Early on in the game, Tampa Bay got the contest’s first power play. Ondrej Palat was found side of the net with a literal open cage but missed the net.
Later on, some excellent work from Brayden Point and a slick feed created another chance for Palat from a similar spot. This time around, 18 in blue made no mistake, burying it to give the Bolts a 1-0 lead.
Jackets strike back
Late in the period, the Bolts were horrible in their own zone, and it cost them. First, it was two Bolts defensemen colliding in their own end. Shortly after the ensuing face-off, Mikhail Grigorenko found a loose puck in front and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy to tie the game.
Next, another sequence of poor coverage allowed Eric Robinson to waltz out front and give the Jackets a 2-1 lead. That score would remain after twenty minutes of play.
The Korpisalo show
The second period was a much better stanza for the Bolts. Right off the get-go, they were creating chances and zone time. Eventually, they broke through on an odd-man rush. Brayden Point, who was electric in this one, burst in alongside Mathieu Joseph on a 2-on-1. Point fed Joseph who tapped it past Columbus net-minder Joonas Korpisalo to tie the game.
From there on in, though, Korpisalo was money. He stopped 15 shots in the period to keep the game tied. Highlighting the series of spectacular goaltending was a nice pad stop on a shorthanded breakaway for Blake Coleman, as well as a nice job cutting down the angle on a Yanni Gourde look from the wall.
All in all, a 16-5 shot advantage for Tampa Bay generated only one goal in the second, and we headed to the third period tied at two goals apiece.
Jackets penalties prove costly
The penalty minutes in this one were 8-2 Columbus, and eventually the Lightning burned them. Palat froze Korpisalo, who seemed to tweak something on the play. Alex Barre-Boulet finally cashed in for his first NHL goal as a result. He’s been nothing but dangerous thus far in his big league tenure, and eventually broke through at a critical time to tie the game at three. Korpisalo left the game and did not return, Elvis Merzlikins his replacement.
Skate to survive
While the shots were rather even in the third, a 12-9 Columbus edge in fact, the latter half of the frame was all Tampa Bay. The Jackets seemed to be content to just get the puck out and live to fight another shift. That would ultimately burn them, as the Bolts had their mojo going heading into overtime, and the game stayed tied 3-3 after regulation.
The Lightning needed only ten seconds to do away with Columbus in OT. Brayden Point burst into the zone and found Victor Hedman walking right down the middle. He wired it past Merzlikins to give the Lightning a massive second point in the Central division race. Next up, kicking off a road trip in the windy city on Tuesday.
Our three stars of the game
- Alex Barre-Boulet: First NHL goal, and dangerous all night long.
- Ondrej Palat: A goal and two assists, rebounding from a missed opportunity early and scoring in his second straight game.
- Victor Hedman: Game-winner, and an assist to go along with it.
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