The second engagement between these clubs was a bit more conventional, since we didn't have to replace a goaltender midstream (thank God), but still had some distinct momentum swings from one period to the next.
At the start of the game, the Jackets clearly had a spark in their game, looking to take control early, but Anders Lindback was on his game, meeting the challenge. The Jackets earned three power play opportunities through the period, yet both teams failed to move the needle before the end of the period.
The same spark came through early in the second period, but what appeared to be an opening goal by Brandon Dubinsky would be waived off after video review due to a kicking motion. The team kept up after the break, and Ryan Johansen would put one on the board for real when he cranked a bullet from the top of the blue line after a nice setup from Ryan Murray.
Unfortunately, that's where the good news ended for the Blue Jackets as far as the second period goes.
On the following shift after the goal, Brandon Dubinsky would be called for a crosscheck after he got into an exchange with Tyler Johnson in front of the Tampa bench.
From there, it was the Victor Hedman show, as the workhorse Swede took the puck from behind his own net and moved up ice, springing Martin St. Louis into the Columbus zone with a perfect stretch pass. St. Louis drove to the net with Tyler Johnson, and Hedman followed, racing up into the play and getting into the position to take a cross-crease pass from Johnson and beat Bob for their first lead of the night.
Tampa pushed hard to extend the lead, including a couple of close calls that required Bob to keep the Jackets in the game. Bottled up through the period, the Jackets were trailing after 40 minutes to a team with a 17-1 record when leading in the third period.
The Jackets needed someone to step up and change the game.
Good thing Nathan Horton was in the lineup tonight.
After Nick Foligno drew a tripping penalty from Jean-Phillipe Cote, the Jackets put their power play out for the fifth time. 0/4 to that point, the special teams were still just as frustrating as the power play that head coach Todd Richards had diagnosed as lifeless this morning.
All that practice finally seemed to click, though, when the cycling of the puck lead to Jack Johnson carrying the puck along the blue line and pulling the penalty kill with him, then passing to a wide open #8, who unleashed a furious top-corner shot to tie the game with his 200th NHL goal.
The Jackets were energized after tying the game, but that energy almost came back to bite them when Horton got into it in front of the Tampa bench with Radko Gudas, ending in a slashing call that put the Lightning back on the man advantage.
The penalty kill went to work, and did exactly what they needed to do. Mark Letestu was clutch, breaking loose on a shorthanded rush with Brandon Dubinsky, but Dubi's shot would trickle just wide. Despite the near miss, the PK spent a significant chunk of the penalty in the Tampa zone rather than their own, and would do it again after Fedor Tyutin was whistled for a hook just past the midway mark.
Overtime was starting to look like a distinct possibility as the clock ticked down, but the Jackets continued to work. Boone Jenner would draw another penalty when he drove to the net against Lindback, and the power play unit had an opportunity to break the tie with just over three minutes left in regulation.
Once again, the power play actually did a solid job of controlling possession and moving the puck. In quite a few games, the complaint would be that the Jackets failed to shoot, looking for the pretty pass instead, but tonight Jack Johnson would hammer a hard shot into traffic that initially appeared to have beaten Lindback cleanly, but would end up being credited to Mark Letestu after review determined that he'd deflected the puck on the way in.
Fair credit to the Lightning - they didn't pack it in, attempting to find a tying goal right to the horn, but the Jackets forced Lindback to stay in his net by keeping the puck in their zone and putting shots on net. Finally, with just over a minute left, the Lightning were able to get an extra skater on the ice, but found themselves chasing the puck deep thanks to near-misses on the empty net from Artem Anisimov and James Wisniewski, killing the clock and keeping Columbus' win streak alive.
Final Score: Jackets 3 - Lighting 2
- Sergei Bobrovsky - Without Bob, this game could easily have been 3-1 or worse going into the third period. When the team was on their heels, he found the saves that kept them in the game long enough for the offense to get back in gear.
- Nathan Horton - His first goal on home ice. Not a bad way to set a milestone. I agree with the perception that Horton's still getting himself up to full speed, but his presence on the power play is really starting to make a difference. I don't think it's a coincidence that the team is 5-1 since he came off the shelf.
- Ryan Murray - His setup for the Johansen goal gives him at least one point in the last five games, and the only players with more ice time tonight were Dubinsky, JJ, and Wiz. If Ryan Johansen is becoming a #1 Center, Murray is already showing signs of being a franchise defenseman.
- Jack Johnson - While the GWG was taken away from him on review, he still brought home a pair of assists. Not a bad way to spend your birthday.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Playing with Fire - Almost every positive development for Columbus in this game was followed by a penalty. That lead to getting burned on the first Tampa goal, and nearly allowed the Lightning to pull back into the lead after the team managed to tie things up in the third period.
- Mid-game Malaise - After some pretty solid efforts over the past week, we saw the club seriously deflate in the second period. They recovered this time, but we need sixty minute efforts for sixty minute games.
- Power Fluctuations - The power play came up big in the third period, but most opponents aren't going to give you six tries to get it right. We're starting to see some positive signs, but the team needs their special teams to be more reliable.
All of that being said, with a pretty healthy crowd (for a Monday) of 14,000 on hand, the team stepped up and delivered a solid win against a very dangerous opponent. They stumbled, but they found ways to turn it around.
That's what good teams do.