The Tampa Bay Lightning fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 in a game that was relatively meaningless. Despite some good stretches of play, the Lightning’s intensity lacked and with the Blue Jackets trying to improve their showing from Tuesday things just didn’t go the Lightning’s way. However the powerplay looked good as they tallied the only two goals of the game for Tampa Bay. Nikita Kucherov scored in his eighth straight game and Brian Elliot was also very strong in net despite giving up 4 goals.
Lack of Intensity in Meaningless Contest
It was clear from the start that the Lightning weren’t as invested in this game as they had been for the previous week. If hits were any indication, there were only a combined 23. But why the should they be? They’ve had their playoff spot all but locked up for months, the top players have all hit career milestones, they’ve constantly stated that they don’t care about where they finish, and most importantly they’ve shown during the last week that they can flip the proverbial switch when it matters. On the flip side, it was Columbus’ final home game of the regular season, giving them more than enough motivation. Over the last two years the Lightning have shown that these games have no meaning. Although they would’ve like to have won, the most important thing in these final two games is keeping everybody healthy.
Columbus Gets Off to a Good Start
Having some extra motivation, it was clear that the Blue Jackets were locking to improve on their performance from Tuesday. Columbus was very dangerous of the rush, which is what they’re know for. It’s why they average over three goals per game. Despite this the Lightning were still able to get some zone time and seemed to have scored the first goal of the game. However, Corey Perry impeded Elvis Merzlikins and the gaol was called back after a Columbus challenge. Not long after the Jackets would get on the board first. Mostly due to work along the boards by Jakub Voracek who got the puck to Kent Johnson. Johnson bought some time and space to return it to Voracek who had an open net. It would be the only tally of the first.
Elliot Shines Again
Not very often does a goaltender have a good night when allowing four goals. However, Thursday was one of those nights as Brian Elliot was excellent. He made numerous key saves a big times for the Lightning to keep them in the game. Early in the first he stopped Voracek on a 2-on-1, then later the period he stoned Carson Meyer on a shorthanded breakaway. Despite allowing two goals in the second neither of them were his fault. Cole Sillinger was left all alone in front for the second goal. Then on the third goal, the Lightning lost track of Jack Roslovic who walked in all alone and fired one bar down. Time and time again he kept the lightning within striking distance making . However in this meaningless game, he got little help.
Kucherov on Fire
Nikita Kucherov remained red hot as he tallied a goal for eighth consecutive game. He opened the scoring for Tampa Bay to tie the game at one, but it would’t hold for long as just 32 seconds later Sillinger would put Columbus ahead for good. Kucherov tied the franchise record for most consecutive games with a goal. He ties Brian Bradley who accomplished the feat during the team’s inaugural season.
During the last eight games, Kucherov has 10 goals and 21 points. His hot streak has also coincided with an increased confidence in the powerplay unit, which has scored 13 goals in the last seven games. With both Stamkos and Kucherov streaking its no surprise that the powerplay has ben successful. However, because of Kucherov’s unique ability to control and move the puck in addition to his shot, the powerplay moves through him.
The Lightning will have a chance to clinch third place in the Atlantic tomorrow when they fave the New York Islanders in Long Island. A win in any fashion would clinch the third seed and a matchup with Toronto in the first round. However, it doesn’t matter where this team finishes. In a conference where all eight playoff teams have over a 100 points, there is no easy path to the Stanley Cup. Finishing on a high note is always a good thing, but as long as the Lightning stay healthy, the result of the game itself will be meaningless.
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