Today, the Columbus Blue Jackets officially began the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Whether you want to count the Qualifying Round or not (the NHL does not, but does count them for stats reasons, which makes absolutely no sense), the chase for the hardest trophy to win in sports is officially underway.
Lining up opposite the Blue Jackets is a familiar foe: the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the Blue Jackets losing their only regular season matchup 2-1 in overtime back in February (over six months ago, as this article is written), everyone remembers what happened in spring 2019: the historically great President’s Trophy winning Lightning were swept out of the playoffs by a plucky, upstart Columbus Blue Jackets squad.
Both teams have undergone makeovers since that series: Columbus lost Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky, while Tampa tried to get tougher in the lineup by adding Barclay Goodrow and Pat Maroon. Will it make a difference?
With Elvis Merzlikins “out indefinitely” per John Tortorella, Joonas Korpisalo got the start in net opposite Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. Tampa went into the game missing Steven Stamkos while Victor Hedman, a gametime decision took the ice in warmups to play.
BREAKING: Victor Hedman is on the ice for warmup for the Tampa Bay Lightning prior to game one vs Columbus.— Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) August 11, 2020
Columbus was also missing Josh Anderson in addition to Merzlikins. A matinee start to the playoffs for the Blue Jackets: here’s what unfolded.
After an effective start to the game for the Lightning, Columbus earned the first power play of the game as Alex Killorn went to the box for tripping Riley Nash. The Columbus Blue Jackets, who never scored a power play goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs, wasted no time in taking advantage of Tampa’s penalty kill. Texier let a shot fly, and Pierre-Luc Dubois was able to deflect it home for the early lead.
Columbus goal (1-0): Dubois from Texier and Jones, 2:39
After some end to end play, Liam Foudy found himself alone with Vasilevskiy but elected instead to pass the puck to Eric Robinson. Robinson was unable to beat the Tampa netminder, but Foudy should have shot that puck.
With 13:33 remaining in the first, Tampa struck back. Victor Hedman let a shot fly on net during a broken play and the rebound came right to Nikita Kucherov, whose shot deflected off of Brayden Point to beat Korpisalo through the five-hole.
Tampa goal (1-1): Point from Kucherov andHedman, 6:27
The teams continued to trade chances, though Tampa dominated on the shot chart through the first ten minutes, outshooting Columbus 9-5.
Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno nearly combined for a go-ahead goal, but Jenner was unable to beat Vasilevskiy.
At the 7:10 mark, Dean Kukan blocked a long shot and skated to the bench in some difficulty. A Zach Bogosian shot hit him high below the shoulder pad, and he receieved attention from the trainers but stayed on the bench. Tampa was making a concerted effort to get pucks to the net and test Korpisalo as often as possible, but the defense and Korpisalo were doing an admirable job of limiting chances and forcing Tampa into wide areas.
As the teams crossed the 5 minutes to play mark, Tampa held a 13-5 edge in shots on net as Columbus was unable to generate sustained offensive zone pressure against the Lightning. Kukan returned to the ice with 3:50 to go, apparently able to continue after his injury. Tampa was also making an effort to hit PLD every chance they had - Tampa had clearly watched film of the Toronto series and wanted to limit the big center’s space as much as possible.
With 49.1 seconds to go, Alexandre Texier went to the box for high sticking (though it wasn’t his stick that hit the Lightning defender in the face), sending the Lightning to the power play for the first time. Columbus was able to escape the period without allowing another goal thanks to some solid netfront work by Seth Jones.
Through the end of the first, Tampa led Columbus in shots 14-6 but the score was tied at one.
1-1 after one.#CBJ quite effective at keeping Tampa to the perimeter, but still can generate more.— Alison (@AlisonL) August 11, 2020
Jackets at 5v5 with:
32.35% of unblocked shots
36.22% of overall shot quality
Shot map via @HockeyViz: pic.twitter.com/AXJOMsGLrT
Tampa began the second period with 1:10 of power play time thanks to the bogus high stick call on Texier. Eric Cernak actually hit the Lightning player in question, but because two minute minor penalties are not reviewable, the call stood. So life goes.
Despite Zach Werenski losing his stick at one point during the kill, the Jackets were able to keep the Lightning off the scoreboard. As the penalty ended, a minor scrum ensued as David Savard pulled Yanni Gourde away from Korpisalo after a saved shot and whistle, but no penalties came as a result.
Savard ends up with a busted lip and blood all over the front of his white #CBJ sweater. He doesn't seem too perturbed by this development, I must say.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) August 11, 2020
Boone Jenner forced a save out of Vasilevskiy at the 17:00 mark that the Tampa netminder fought off awkwardly and eventually bounced over the net.
Columbus was playing much more aggressively in the second period - the Jackets took advantage of possession to generate several dangerous changes. With 14:07 to go in the second, the whistle blew after Robinson, on a rush, accidentally hit a sliding Vasilevskiy with his knee. There was no penalty called due to incidental contact, but Vasilevskiy did receive attention from the trainers.
At 6:28, Columbus earned their second power play of the day as Yanni Gourde went to the box for slashing Seth Jones. The opportunity lasted just seconds, however, as Anthony Cirelli drew a holding call on Jones and so the teams went to four on four hockey. End to end action with the open ice saw both teams denied on glorious looks at the net. With 11:23 remaining, Tampa was called for a bench minor for too many men on the ice as Victor Hedman was attempting to get on the wrong bench.
No one is going to notice this 6'6 giant sneaking onto the opposing bench pic.twitter.com/VZZc8MKekJ— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) August 11, 2020
Despite the man advantage, Columbus was unable to generate a solid scoring chance that really threatened Vasilevskiy and Tampa killed off the minor penalty.
As the teams crossed through the eight minutes to go mark, the Lightning held the shot edge 20-13 neither team had found a way to break through the deadlock. The teams continued to chase each other through the neutral zone until the 4:52 remaining mark as the networks took the final TV timeout, but neither side managed a dangerous chance on net.
Late in the period, Nikita Kucherov had a one on one rush up the ice but hit shot missed the mark wide, not even forcing Korpisalo to make a save. With seconds to go in the period, a long shift in the offensive zone saw Oliver Bjorkstrand slap a shot from the far right side and beat Vasilevskiy high on the short side to retake the lead for Columbus.
Welcome to the postseason, Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Columbus goal (2-1): Bjorkstrand from Dubois and Kukan,
After 40 minutes, Tampa led 26-16 in shots but Columbus led 2-1 on the scoreboard.
The lead was short lived as Columbus surrendered their advantage just 23 seconds into the third period after Korpisalo accidentally kicked the puck into his own net.
Tampa goal (2-2): Gourde from McDonagh and Coleman, 0:23
Oh you hate to see THAT pic.twitter.com/ZnCgoFsr7z— P-Word Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) August 11, 2020
Columbus also had an atrocious power play. So there’s that.
With 7:51 to go in the game, Nick Foligno saw a chance broken up by Mikhail Sergachev before Korpisalo stoned Pat Maroon in front of the net. A long shift by the Dubois line with 6:09 to go led to a shot from the point smothered and held by Vasilevskiy for no rebound chance. With 4:28 remaining, Tampa Bay took their second too many men penalty of the game, giving Columbus a late power play chance to try to win it.
After a bad start to the power play chance, Gustav Nyquist had a chance that Blake Coleman was able to block because the puck rolled on him and he had to take a beat to gather it. The Blue Jackets were unable to score on the power play as the teams approached the end of regulation with the score tied at two.
Neither team managed a breakthrough late in the third period and the teams went to overtime tied at two and with Tampa outshooting Columbus 41-26.
Tampa started overtime on the front foot, needing both Korpisalo and his skaters in front to be on their toes. After managing to get settled, though, Foligno and Eric Robinson looked to combine for a chance but were turned aside by an active Tampa stick.
A long period of end to end chances ended with several outstanding saves by Korpisalo after an extended shift in the defensive zone with the Cirelli line pinning the Jackets in. Korpisalo made an outstanding stop on Alex Killorn who was in all alone on net. With 9:52 remaining, there was a pause in the action as the officials scraped the ice.
Some end to end action followed the stoppage with Columbus dumping the puck in but unable to generate their forecheck to pressure and get the puck back. Meanwhile, Columbus was keeping Tampa to long shots on the defensive end.
Just as we crossed the dour minute mark remaining in the first overtime, the Lightning had a rush up ice that Korpisalo was able to calmly stick aside. Tampa were clearly the aggressors in overtime, unable to generate chances. With 3:18 to, Tampa had a shot go off the post as Columbus visibly wore down.
Columbus escaped, somehow.
Columbus opened the second overtime on the front foot, looking for a chance to end the game but could not find a bounce. Nikita Kucherov had a shot on a tic-tac-toe play but his shot sailed high and wide just minutes into the period. The teams continued to exchange chances and shifts but neither was able to solve the netminders.
Chances continued through the middle part of the period. Several Jackets had chances that went wide, while Tampa was struggling to control the puck in the offensive zone. Vladislav Gavrikov and Cam Atkinson saw chances steered aside by Vasilevskiy on an extended shift in the Tampa zone. Just before the whistle, Joonas Korpisalo made a great save on Cedric Pacquette as Victor Hedman was hit with a high stick that went undetected. Seconds later, Liam Foudy and Seth Jones combined to nearly find the winner but Vasilevskiy was equal to the task.
Both teams continued to trade chances, with Alex Killorn netting the best chance for Tampa with just under seven minutes remaining but Korpisalo was equal to the task. Blake Coleman made a great effort at a bouncing puck with 4:44 remaining But Korpisalo was able to control it.
Alex Texier made a short side effort with speed off the bench but Vasilevskiy, tight to his post, made the save and covered. Despite a push by the Lightning to end the first period, Columbus was able to survive. To triple overtime the teams went.
In the last 48 hours, Joonas Korpisalo has played 8 periods of hockey and made 90 saves.— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) August 11, 2020
How is this still going on.
Early in the period, a Victor Hedman shot sailed high and out of play and, on the ensuing shift, Foudy and Dubois attempted apply some pressure before Tampa cleared the puck. Stephens saw a one timer saved by Korpisalo with 16:55 remaining in 3OT. A strong shift from the Jenner line saw Nyquist, Werenski, and Foligno turned aside before a penalty call against Columbus. With 15:47 to go, a lazy stick from Nick Foligno got up high on a Tampa player and Columbus was called for a penalty.
Despite several big chances for the Lightning, Korpisalo was able to be strong and keep the puck covered and out of the net. With seconds to go, Werenski carried the puck out and killed the Foligno penalty. At the other end, Sergachev was able to prevent a loose puck from rolling onto Bjorkstrand’s stick.
As the teams crossed the midway mark of the third overtime, they continued to trade chances after dump and change hockey. Shots favored Tampa 66-48. Bjorkstrand forced a kick save from Vasilevskiy with 10 minutes to go, and then Korpisalo made a solid glove save of his own.
With seven minutes to go, Alex Wennberg was hauled down on a rush but there was no call from the official. Meanwhile, the teams continued to trade chances up and down the ice. With 5:00 to go, Eric Cernak saw a great shot saved and turned to the corner by Korpisalo.
With three minutes to go, the Tampa push late in the period began to appear (and included someone running into Korpisalo. Nick Foligno saw a wraparound attempt turned aside with seconds to go and the teams went to a fourth overtime.
This game is like a CVS receipt.— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) August 12, 2020
Korpisalo made an excellent blocker save just into the third period. Minutes later, Blake Coleman forced an excellent shoulder save by Korpisalo to keep the Jackets alive. Jody just made a note that, through the 15:30 remaining mark of 4OT, Cam does not have a shot on net. That seems bad for a 41 goal scorer! Nathan Gerbe took a big hit from Ryan McDonagh with 14:13 to go and caught an elbow to the face. He got up, but went down the tunnel.
On a rush from Columbus, Vasilevskiy turned aside an attempt from Boone Jenner following a nice feed from Foligno. At the other end, Korpisalo made a strong save on a Bolts attempt from the slot. David Savard tried to walk to the net, turning around Alex Killorn, but Vasilevskiy was equal to the shot that time.
After some end to end chances, Korpisalo mad several excellent saves, including one off his face mask.
NHL’s got jokes now... pic.twitter.com/XkAGl2vy6a— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) August 12, 2020
The teams continued to trade end to end chances through the latter parts of the fourth overtime but (and you’ve heard this before) neither team could find the breakthrough.
We don’t have any words and we know you don’t want to hear them.— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) August 12, 2020
We understand your anger, your frustration, your sadness. Everything you’re feeling – we get it.
This isn’t the start time we imagined, and certainly not the one we wanted. Thank you for being there the entire way
Seth Jones set the NHL record for time on ice in a single game.
Dean Kukan took a delay of game penalty with just over 12 minutes remaining in the fifth overtime. Cam Atkinson had a shorthanded breakaway with 10:44 remaining but Hedman broke it up and Atkinson got tangled in the net and camera. Somehow, no penalty was called. The Jackets killed the Lightning penalty, allowing no shots.
10:58 AM: The Canes and Bruins have seen enough. They've dressed, they're waiting in the tunnel, telling Tampa and Columbus to get this shit over with. Joonas Korpisalo is now up to 1136 saves. David Savard down to half a leg. Brayden Point is somehow still skating at full speed https://t.co/tJamv2lMIc— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) August 12, 2020
Finally, under the 10 minute mark, Brayden Point whipped a shot on net and found a way to beat Korpisalo on a rebound off of Vladislav Gavrikov. Ball game at 10:27 of the final overtime period.
Columbus Blue Jackets 2 Tampa Bay Lightning 3 (5OT)
Longest game in franchise history. Whew.
A power play goal! Who knew we could still do that after the Toronto series? Unfortunately, the rest of the Columbus attempts were atrocious.
Great to see Oliver Bjorkstrand find the back of the net. After struggling mightily against the Leafs, Columbus needed to get him going to have any chance in this series. Scorers are streaky, and sometimes finding the back of the net in odd ways can get a guy going. Bjorkstrand’s shot wasn’t exactly what one would call “high XG” but it went in.
Columbus has now played the most minutes of any team in this tournament. Depth, rest, and conditioning will be keys to this series.
Hope Nathan Gerbe is okay after a big hit from McDonagh.
Hopefully Vladislav Gavrikov is okay after taking that shot at the end of the game.
Hell of an effort from Joonas Korpisalo. Set a record for postseason saves by a goaltender. He was outstanding and there was nothing he could do at the end on the Point effort. Kudos to Korpi for keeping them alive as long as he could.
I mean ... I got nothing else at this point.
The Jackets and Lightning will face off in game two of their best of seven series on Thursday, August 13. Faceoff is set for 3 PM EST.