No one saw this coming, but here it is. The cold reality of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has smacked the Tampa Bay Lightning hard. Tampa Bay’s historic 62-win season may be coming to an end sooner than anyone thought. The Lightning found themselves down 2-0 in their series against the Columbus Blue Jackets after a blown lead in the first game and an abysmal loss in the second. Now to avoid going down 3-0, the Lightning had to win in Columbus without Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov.
Tampa started the playoffs the right way. Gaining a three-goal lead on Columbus in the first period was a great start. Columbus then went on to score four unanswered and win the first game in the series in an incredible comeback. Fans were expecting a big response from the Lightning in the second game of the series, however, they were sorely disappointed. Game 2 was even worse, as the Lightning failed to score until they were already down by three goals. Their frustration was evident as Nikita Kucherov laid a dirty hit that earned him a suspension for this Game 3 match up.
A more structured start
The game started with the usual feeling-out process. Columbus was clearly energized being in front of the home crowd. Tampa played a much more structured game than their previous two, doing a better job of keeping the puck in front of them. However, they were heavily out-shot and out-possessed in the first. Andrei Vasilevskiy got off to a great start that kept the game scoreless for the first period.
Columbus breaks through
Columbus finally opened the scoring when Matt Duchene backhanded a rebound on net. Vasilevksiy reached for it and almost got it with the glove but it bounced off and into the net. Now down by one, Tampa started to push a bit harder, but just couldn’t find any footing in this game. Unable to possess the puck for any length of time, they still got outworked in the neutral zone as they had in the previous games.
Columbus got another crack at the power play when Ryan Callahan was called for interference seven minutes into the second period. On the power play, Oliver Bjorkstrand blasted one by Vasilevskiy for the Blue Jackets’ second goal of the game, putting the Lightning in a 2-0 deficit.
The Lightning finally score a goal
It was clear Tampa Bay knew what was at stake. The team found renewed energy at the beginning of the third period. The first four minutes saw a relentless onslaught of attack from the Lightning. Tampa was finally able to break through when Ondrej Palat beat Sergei Bobrovsky one-on-one. The ensuing 15 minutes saw the Tampa Bay team that won 62 games in the regular season. A fast skating team that wins puck battles and puts pucks on the net. However, Bobrovsky stood tall and held Tampa Bay to only one goal. With 1:28 left, Columbus put the finishing touches on the game with an empty net goal. With the defeat, Tampa Bay has now lost three games in a row for the first time this season.
-Tampa Bay had no power play chances.
-Columbus has scored a power play goal in all three games
-Steven Stamkos only had 16 minutes of ice time and didn’t register a single shot on goal.
-Since taking a three-goal lead in Game 1, Tampa Bay has been outscored 12-2.
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