It was the first meeting between the two teams since the playoffs last year when the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. Tampa Bay went into the game wanting to bury that series in the past and get the victory despite not having captain Steven Stamkos who was out with an injury.
Lightning strike early
The Lightning came out firing out of the gate and caused early pressure for the Blue Jackets defense. That pressure would pay off as the Bolts would score early into the first period. Nikita Kucherov tipped in a shot from teammate Mikhail Sergachev that would zip past Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins 2:29 in the first period. Remainder of the period stayed quiet until the penalties started reeling in towards the final minutes of the first. Some 4 on 4 action would occur until the Blue Jackets gave the Lightning a shot at the power play. Jackets forward Nick Foligno was called for an illegal check to the head on Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak at 17:34 in the first period. Columbus was able to kill off the penalty thus keeping the score 1-0 Lightning after the first period.
Columbus answers back
The Jackets would then replicate the start the Lightning had in the first period, and tied up the game early in the second period. Oliver Bjorkstrand backhanded a shot that would find its way past Curtis McElhinney to tie the game 1-1 3:44 into the 2nd period. Both teams had some chances on the man advantage throughout the period, but neither team took advantage. A tight, controlled game would keep the game tied heading into the third period.
Quiet third sets up overtime
The third period started much like the later minutes of the 2nd period. Both teams continued to play a tight, controlled game showing no signs of coughing up a goal. The Lightning defense did look sloppy at times, but McElhinney kept the Blue Jackets from taking the lead in the period. The Lightning had some chances to tie up the game at some points, but could not find an answer to the Blue Jackets’ defense. Neither team committed a penalty in the 3rd which meant overtime was needed to settle the score.
Kucherov to the rescue
Tampa Bay quickly took control of the puck in overtime, and never gave the Blue Jackets a chance at winning this game. Brayden Point set up Victor Hedman perfectly who would then pass the puck to Kucherov, and hammer the puck in for the game winning goal. The Lightning would get rid of their playoff woes defeating the Blue Jackets 2-1 in overtime. The win puts the Lightning only 3 points behind Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Three Stars of the game
1st Star Nikita Kucherov – 2g including the gwg in overtime
2nd Star Curtis McElhinney – Saved 27 of 28 shots faced
3rd Star Oliver Bjorkstrand – Scored the lone goal for Colombus
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