It was the third and final game this season for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and it was another embarrassing scoreline. Following an 8-2 loss and a 4-0 loss, tonight saw a 5-1 loss. Unlike those other games, however, there were some positives to take away:
The Jackets came out and DOMINATED in the first period. They led shots on goal 20-6. They controlled possession for most of the period.
The rookies Eric Robinson and Kole Sherwood (the latter making his NWA debut for his hometown team) played very well.
Lukas Sedlak broke the shutout in the waning minutes of the game. Tampa got caught on a line change and crisp passes from Scott Harrington and Riley Nash found Sedsy at the doorstep to stuff it through the five hole. That snapped a stretch of 183:53 of game time from Andrei Vasilevskiy without giving up a goal.
Now the bad news:
While Columbus generated more shot attempts, they didn’t get many high danger chances. The few chances they got to the crease, Vasy showed why he’s one of the best goalies in the game right now.
In the first period, the Jackets were burned by two mistakes. Twice they had their pocket picked while attempting to enter the offensive zone. First it was Pierre-Luc Dubois, and then it was Nick Foligno. In both cases, Tampa’s top line was on ice and the Jackets had no chance of stopping the breakaway. Nikita Kucherov - who we knew was a threat - scored both times.
The game remained in reach until the end of the second period. Josh Anderson took a penalty for goalie interference - but that was an unfair call, Braydon Coburn appeared to push Anderson from behind before he lost an edge and plowed into Vasilevskiy. Halfway through the ensuing kill, Columbus took a too-many-men penalty, and you can guess what happened next: Tampa scored a PP goal right off the next faceoff.
As the third period began, Tampa still had that second power play. Brayden Point scored just 12 seconds into the period, off an opening faceoff win. Then he added insult to injury by scoring another goal 34 seconds later. With that, the fate was sealed.
Kucherov and Point were on ice for all five Lightning goals. That gave Point two goals a piece in all three games against the Blue Jackets this season.
To add injury to insult, Ryan Murray left the game with an upper body injury in the first period and did not return.
It would be a mistake to read too much into the result of a single game. This loss doesn’t mean the season is over. But I do think it’s obvious that the Tampa Bay Lightning are well ahead of us. They’re well ahead of most of the league. The Blue Jackets played the kind of game they wanted to, and it just wasn’t enough. A handful of mistakes got turned into goals the other way. Sounds like a playoff result, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, there’s another game tomorrow night so they can put this result out of their minds. The Jackets travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens, in a game that could have ramifications in the battle for the first wild card (i.e. who wants to play the Islanders rather than the Lightning in Round One).