In a night that began with a puck drop from former boxing champion and Columbus legend James “Buster” Douglas, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning traded blows in their own heavyweight bout. No gloves were dropped, but there was shoving, tripping, and checking all night (some called by the refs, but much more overlooked).
The Blue Jackets demonstrated the same suffocating defense that had previously stymied the top lines of Florida and Colorado. While the Lightning could not score at 5v5, however, star winger Nikita Kucherov extended his league-leading point streak to 11 with both Tampa goals in this 2-1 overtime win.
After last year’s playoff embarrassment, the Lightning have embraced a new approach to defense, and that prevented Columbus from getting many second chance opportunities. Meanwhile, the Columbus defense kept the area in front of Elvis Merzlikins mostly clean:
Here are the key points of tonight’s game:
Shame on NBC
NBCSN’s coverage tonight was, of course, a disgrace. Much of the pregame, intermissions, and postgame was spent discussing the Capitals/Islanders game rather than the Jackets game. Did Alex Ovechkin reach that arbitrary milestone of 700 goals? Friends, he did not. He was -4 for the night with six shots on goal. No goals and no assists, either. Will NBCSN air every subsequent Capitals game until he hits 700? They’re obligated to do so at this point, aren’t they?
Many Jackets fans in Ohio were unable to watch that game, with streaming services like YouTube TV showing the Caps game on NBCSN, with no other option to watch Columbus, even via the NBC Sports app. It’s so unfair when it has been scheduled to be nationally televised the whole time. It’s the 21st century, so embrace the ability for streaming customers to watch their local team. Is that so hard?
There were other ways the broadcast found itself lacking. I’m so used to the Fox Sports Ohio bug showing the shot numbers at all times that it’s annoying when NBC’s does not. There were times where the graphic stopped showing the time left on a 4 on 4 after a goal. Then they got a player’s name wrong in this graphic (while leaving off players like Texier, but I understand there is only so much room to list all of our injuries):
Burner and Kuch
This was one of those games where it was so evenly played that it comes down to which team has the elite playmakers. Both goals for Tampa featured hustle plays by Brayden Point and perfect positioning by Kucherov. The first goal was a thing of beauty, as Point skated the puck into the zone with a full head of steam at 4v4, circled behind the net, and passed to Mikhail Sergachev. Sergachev fired a one-timer (passing and shooting quickly, what a concept!) and Kucherov tapped it past Elvis Merzlikins. Not much he could do about such a fast, precisely executed play.
21 sets the table and 86 cleans up. pic.twitter.com/aKukWsIIUx— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 11, 2020
In overtime, the Blue Jackets won the all-important opening faceoff thanks to Nick Foligno, with Zach Werenski recovering the puck and entering the zone. After cycling, Werenski backed out of the zone to reset. Point followed him, and the forecheck forced Z to retreat behind the Columbus net. There, Point pounced and stole the puck. He quickly passed to a streaking Victor Hedman, who one-time passed (again, no hesitation) to Kucherov at the back side of the goal, who had a wide open goal to tap it it in for the win.
Have to put a lot of blame on Werenski for allowing the Lightning to apply that kind of pressure. This made us really miss the steady 3 on 3 OT presence of Seth Jones.
“One goal? One g*****n goal?”
“You can’t say that on air.”
“Ah, no one’s watching anyway.”
The Jackets’ one score was a very nice one! Shortly after a Pierre-Luc Dubois penalty expired, Vladislav Gavrikov won a battle behind the net. Emil Bemstrom recovered the puck and made a clean outlet pass to Dubois. Dubois carried it through the neutral zone and fed Oliver BJORKSTRAND with speed. The Maestro was one-on-one with Curtis McElhinney, so he deked towards the center, C-Mac bit, and BJORKSTRAND lifted it over his right shoulder instead.
Dubois and Don’ts
Dubois took three penalties. It was a chippy game, but that’s way too many! It’s good when he gets under the other teams’ skins, but not when he’s the one getting caught. Cut it out. He also allowed the most shot attempts against. Aside from his assist, not a good night. Fortunately it didn’t burn them tonight, because:
The power kill didn’t score, but not for lack of trying. In 4:24 of power play time, the Lightning had six shot attempts. During that time the Jackets had five shot attempts of their own. Not too shabby. Special credit to Boone Jenner, Riley Nash (2 attempts each) and Nathan Gerbe (one attempt).
Liam Foudy made his NHL debut, played a team-low 10:22 (all 5v5), and now returns to his junior team, the London Knights. I hope he returns to Columbus when his OHL season is over, because he looks like he fits in. He’s big, he’s fast, and he showed good hands as well. He had three shot attempts, two of which were on goal and one which was a high danger shot. His parents were in attendance, with his father showing his own recent hockey injury:
Liam Foudy’s parents were able to make it to their son’s first NHL game…even after getting hit in the eye with a puck at a weekly men’s game (credit to @NHLonNBCSports) #CBJ pic.twitter.com/9OPSTeVmqI— Alison (@AlisonL) February 11, 2020
The Blue Jackets have two days of practice before traveling to Buffalo for a game on Thursday night. If Cam Atkinson is not recovered by then, another call will need to be made to Cleveland. Will it be Calvin Thurkauf? Trey Fix-Wolansky? Kole Sherwood?
The OT loss plus the Islanders’ win over Washington drops the Jackets from third place in the Metro to the first wild card position, just one point ahead of the Flyers (who have a game in hand).