Per Natural Stat Trick, the expected goals were 3.36-2.1 in Tampa’s favor, which pretty closely matches the 3-2 final score. That doesn’t sound so bad until you look deeper and see that 1.38 of the expected goals for Columbus came during power plays in the first period. They managed seven shots on goal in those opportunities, but none found the back of the net. The closest was this golden opportunity for Emil Bemstrom:
At the end of a consecutive power plays which included a long stretch of 5v3, the Jackets led the Lightning in shots on goal, 9-2. For the rest of the period, Tampa led 6-1. For the final two periods? The Jackets managed just seven shots over the final two periods, compared to the Lightning’s 26. That’s just not good enough.
The Jackets started each of those final two periods with goals, but any chance of building momentum was extinguished by a Lightning push.
The offensive strategy - to the extent that one existed - seemed to be based around long stretch passes. But these passes were all either off-target or the Jackets lacked the foot speed to win the races to the loose pucks.
Korpi is human after all
While he had no help from his teammates, the goals scored by the Lightning were ones that Joonas Korpisalo would like to have back. This doesn’t erase his achievements so far this postseason, but rather it proves that this team can’t count on allowing 0 or 1 goal against every game, or another 85 save effort.
The first goal was created from a Jackets turnover in the neutral zone. Alex Killorn carried the puck in on a 2-on-1 with Anthony Cirelli against David Savard. Savard hit the deck perhaps a moment too soon, and Killorn threw the puck at the crease. It’s not clear if it was intended as a pass or a shot, but either way it found its way under Korpi’s left leg.
Throughout the season and especially in the bubble, Korpi has shown great improvement in his positioning and his rebound control. Unfortunately the latter demon reappeared on the second goal:
This wasn’t entirely on Korpi, however. Sometimes for a shot like that all you can do is get your shoulder on it and hope for the best. Throughout the postseason, the Jackest have excelled at cleaning up loose pucks in front of the net. In this case, however, there were more skaters in white jerseys than blue jerseys around the net when it mattered. Off the faceoff, Alexander Wennberg was marking Brayden Point but then let Point slip behind him. With Zach Werenski occupied with Ondrej Palat in front of the net, this left Point with no opposition as he collected the puck and directed it into the net.
For the game-winning goal, Korpi was squared up to Victor Hedman’s shot, but it slipped between his arm and chest.
But, it was also an example of the Jackets breaking down. The puck was turned over at center ice as Nick Foligno was caught on the end of his shift and Oliver Bjorkstrand and Pierre-Luc Dubois were just starting theirs.
Cedric Paquette swiped the puck and fed it to Carter Verhaege (making his playoff debut, so he had fresh legs). The Lightning had numbers, as Dubois was way far away from the play and Foligno was late getting position to cover the defensemen. Hence, Hedman was wide open for Verhaege’s pass.
It was a very bad night for Foligno (5v5 shot attempts: on ice for 4 for, 24 against) as well as Boone Jenner (3 shot attempts for, 33 allowed). Each saw their role and minutes reduced in the third period.
An unlikely bright spot
Riley Nash scored his second playoff goal as a Blue Jacket, meaning he has one more than Rick Nash. 20 > 61.
This was a great play early in the second period. Gus Nyquist won a puck battle and carried the puck up ice before sending it ahead to Nash as he entered the zone. Nash then let loose a snipe from the left circle. Who knew he had that shot in him?
Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson
Another bright spot in the game was the push provided by some younger players in the third period. Torts shuffled the lines to give them more opportunities. Was it their play? Was it because they hadn’t been used as much in the previous games, so their legs were fresher? Either way, it got the Jackets within one.
Wennberg redeemed himself with an assist on this play. He had the puck behind the Tampa net, then passed to Eric Robinson at the top of the zone. Robinson fired a long range shot which was blocked by Andrei Vasilevskiy. In a move that would make any hockey, basketball, or soccer coach happy, Robinson followed his shot and scored off his own rebound.
These teams are back at it on Monday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. Burn the tapes; rest up. As John Tortorella said the first 12 minutes were the best they’ve played all series. Find a way to do that for a full game.