In Game 1, the Columbus Blue Jackets faced a 3-0 hole and dug out to mount a thrilling comeback against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In Game 2, it was Columbus jumping out to a three-goal lead—but this time, the Blue Jackets held on and smothered a potential Lightning rally to grind out a 5-1 win.
The Blue Jackets’ objective heading into Friday night was simple: tighten up what didn’t work on Wednesday (puck control, energy early, Bobrovsky’s nerves) and keep up what did (special teams, Bobrovsky for 40 minutes, offense from the defense).
Every player showed up for the CBJ in the team’s 5-1 win. Columbus received scoring from the top and bottom of the lineup and notched two power play goals while killing both of Tampa’s power plays. Prized trade deadline pickup Matt Duchene came up huge with four points and Zach Werenski picked up a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, fight and assist) in his first seven minutes of play.
CBJ fans had good reason to feel nervous, but the Lightning never threatened to tie the game from the game’s first goal. When Columbus had a lead, they held it. When Tampa got chippy, the Blue Jackets tamped it down. Columbus blocked shots and clogged up the neutral zone.
Were there too many good looks and scoring chances allowed? Of course, it’s the Lightning. But the Blue Jackets are heading back to Nationwide Arena with a 2-0 series lead, and that’s all that matters.
The Blue Jackets are one of the top stories nationally, an ugly hit from Nikita Kucherov looping on highlight shows across North America. The organization finds itself in familiar waters considering last year’s 2-0 lead on Washington, sure, but this is far more daring. Columbus marched into Game 2 and rolled over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and typing it doesn’t make it feel any more real.
All season, the Blue Jackets couldn’t at the same time. If the offense was going, Bob was a mess. Ditto for the other end. The power play never figured it out. Now? The CBJ are firing on all cylinders. Nine different players have scored in two games. Riley Nash has more points than Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point combined.
Sergei Bobrovsky looked like the Bob locked in over the final month of the season. Friday marked the first time he’s ever allowed fewer than three goals in a playoff game, though one game featured an empty netter.
David Savard blocked six shots. He might be Columbus’s most consistent player through the first two games of the series. Could’ve heated an entire home with a “Riley Nash and David Savard need to come up big for the Blue Jackets to beat the Lightning” take in January. Matt Duchene’s four points set the franchise record for playoff points in a game, one of those coming on his first career playoff goal.
As far as comparisons, it isn’t Washington. The Blue Jackets will not come home with any illusion about “enjoying” the edge in this series. Victor Hedman talked smack to, of all people, Riley Nash about this, who wasn’t even in Columbus last season:
Down 5-1 in Game 2, Victor Hedman reminds Columbus they were up 2-0 last year against Washington pic.twitter.com/wBmJkX0k7Z— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) April 13, 2019
Also worth noting: Hedman has not been good for the Lightning in these playoffs. He may be playing hurt, but he’s found himself bad positions for several CBJ goals.
The Blue Jackets only allowed 18 even strength shots. Against the Lightning.
Prediction: Kucherov gets a one game suspension. Should get two (at least), but predicting one.
Nationwide Arena is going to be rocking on Sunday for Game 3. Can’t wait.
The Blue Jackets’ first goal showed how the rest of the game would go, by winning puck battles and going right at Vasilevskiy. Matt Duchene beat J.T. Miller on the boards and found Cam Atkinson on the doorstep for a redirection:
1-0 Blue Jackets, Atkinson at 5:15 of the first period, assisted by Duchene
Heading into this series, everyone talked about how the Blue Jackets’ physicality could help them against the speedy Lightning. It certainly worked for them on Friday.
A puck over glass penalty from Adam Erne—again, caused by the CBJ hitting the Lightning as soon as they touched the puck—gave the Blue Jackets their first power play of the game. They looked to replicate the same success from Wednesday, even running the same tic-tac-toe plays that led to Seth Jones’s goal on Wednesday.
They didn’t score, but it didn’t matter. A great play by Brandon Dubinsky to keep the puck in the zone for Riley Nash created a breakaway where Ondrej Palat hauled him down for another penalty.
Duchene picked up his second assist on the first faceoff of the advantage, winning the draw to Zach Werenski. The young defenseman wired a wrist through traffic and and a Lightning self-screen on Vasilevsky for a 2-0 lead.
2-0 Blue Jackets, Werenski (PP) at 11:44 of the first, assisted by Duchene
The Blue Jackets kept up the pressure. Artemi Panarin sprung Oliver Bjorkstrand for the breakaway and Cam Atkinson blocked a point shot.
Columbus was firmly under the Lightning’s skin at this point. Josh Anderson and Yanni Gourde engaged in a post-whistle scrum that spilled over for a Zach Werenski-Brayden Point fight, the first of Z’s career.
John Tortorella mentioned after the game that the fight riled the bench up and took Brayden Point, a pretty good player in his own right, off the ice for the rest of the period. He loved it.
The period ended with some more chippiness, as Victor Hedman and Riley Nash shoved each other after the horn.
The Blue Jackets led 10-8 in shots after the opening frame.
The 17 minutes of intermission didn’t cool off the Lightning’s tempers. Alex Killorn came in late with a hit that was deemed interference to put the CBJ back on the power play 30 seconds into the period. The Blue Jackets threw a juicy one-timer on Vasilevskiy, but it was a tic-tac-toe play to Duchene on the doorstep—right in front of Victor Hedman—for a 3-0 lead. The goal marked Matt Duchene’s first-ever postseason goal and the team’s second power play tally of the night.
3-0 Blue Jackets, Duchene (PP) at 1:28 of the second, assisted by Panarin and Werenski
Every time Tampa created a great chance, Columbus created one on the other end. Werenski made a great defensive play by breaking up a breakaway without committing a stick penalty soon before the CBJ created a great look seconds after.
Columbus killed a too-many men penalty with some skill and luck. Cam Atkinson stymied transition in the neutral zone and a Tampa shot struck iron as the Lightning came up empty on yet another advantage.
This type of effort—stopping Tampa’s transition play, blocking shots (Savard picked up one of his six blocks in the middle of the second) and not taking risks with the puck—carried the Blue Jackets through all 60 minutes of play.
The good looks continued for the CBJ. Oliver Bjorkstrand tested Vasilevskiy off the rush and a Josh Anderson shot squeezed through Vasilevskiy’s arm, trickling past the post. A Boone Jenner shot clanged off the post after Tyler Johnson missed a wide-open net. Bjorkstrand blocked a shot that broke his stick. Playoff hockey, people.
The period ended with boos. Tampa won 62 games and was booed off the ice 40 minutes into Game 2. Tough crowd.
Less than three minutes into the first, Riley Nash pounced on a turnover in the high slot and fired a wrister in Vasilevskiy’s glove. He would get another chance later in the game.
The Blue Jackets caught a break defensively that proved extremely important. Tampa moved the puck around the zone and created a wide-open net to shoot at, but Brayden Point’s skate blocked the shot as he set up in front. That’s the kind of play where you think “You know, maybe it’s not gonna be Tampa’s night.”
At the other end, Vasilevskiy turned over the puck on a lazy play and was lucky Panarin didn’t put it in the back of the net.
The Lightning finally got on the board with a puck that barely trickled over the line. Some sustained pressure and a good cycle created a screened Mikhail Sergachev shot that deflected in for Tampa’s first goal at 5:00.
3-1 Blue Jackets, Sergachev at 5:00 in the third, assisted by Miller and Cernak
Less than a minute after the goal, Nick Foligno committed a tripping penalty to give the Lightning their second power play of the night. If Tampa was going to turn this night around, this was the time.
So what happened? David Savard came up with another big block. Sergei Bobrovsky stoned a Lightning one timer. The Blue Jackets kept the puck out of the net, is what happened. A media timeout with 11:27 left came at the right time, giving the Blue Jackets a few minutes to recover and finish out the game.
Nash picked up another chance to make up for his missed shot earlier. Boone Jenner completely outworked Sergachev, finding Nash in front as one of the most beleaguered players on the team came through with his biggest goal of the year.
4-1 Blue Jackets, Nash at 9:06 of the third, assisted by Jenner
Vasilevsky may have a stick side problem.
The wheels finally came off the Lightning machine on the CBJ’s fifth goal. Panarin ran down Jan Rutta on a loose puck sliding into the Tampa zone. Bjorkstrand fished out the puck and found Duchene on the other side of the zone, who went right back to Panarin in front for a bona fide beauty.
5-1 Blue Jackets, Panarin at 12:15 at the third, assisted by Duchene and Bjorkstrand
All hell broke loose with a truly ugly play near the end of the game. Nikita Kucherov tripped Markus Nutivaara and, during the delayed penalty, went after him with a vicious check on the boards. Nick Foligno rose to Nutivaara’s defense as Victor Hedman and Josh Anderson had a friendly chat.
Speaking of chat, it appears Kucherov will have a talk with NHL Player Safety.
Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov will have a hearing tomorrow for Boarding Columbus’ Markus Nutivaara.— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) April 13, 2019
Kucherov and Hedman left with game misconducts. What an ending.
The chaos resulted in five minute major power play for Columbus. The Blue Jackets took a few solid shots, but they didn’t need them—they didn’t allow any goals, and secured the win. That’s all that mattered.