The Columbus Blue Jackets lost their eighth straight game tonight, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a final score of 3-1. The game was not actually aesthetically pleasing, with big chunks of time passing with nothing much happening. With that being said, my bar is pretty low as of late, so showing effort and not getting blown out makes this one of the better games the team has played lately.
As I watched the game, I kept asking myself if the Jackets were playing well or if the Lightning were playing down to their competition. It was probably a bit of both, but regardless, I was just happy to watch a competitive hockey game from the Blue Jackets, even if it was a pretty boring affair. It seems like closer games have been few and far between lately.
From the start it was clear the Jackets’ game plan in this one was to just muck it up and play a tight checking road game, and let the chips fall where they may. Tampa would put up the first five shots of the game, requiring a few nice stops from Elvis Merzlikins.
About nine minutes into the period, the Jackets went on their only power play of the night when Ondrej Palat went off for a cross-check. The Jackets would cash in on the man advantage and take an early lead. Patrik Laine (surprisingly) maintained possession of the puck and slid it across the zone to Oliver BJORKSTRAND who tee’d up a one-timer for Seth Jones. The puck appeared to deflect off Alex Killorn’s stick and “knuckle-pucked” its way behind Curtis McElhinney.
1-0 Jackets (Jones from BJORKSTRAND and Laine)
Once Tampa went up 5-0 in shots, the Jackets answered with the next seven shots, and would hold the Lightning to only those five shots through the rest of the period.
Early on in the second frame, the Jackets’ penalty kill got their first opportunity when rookie Josh Dunne was called for holding. The kill was strong, not giving the Lightning much and even generated an odd-man rush with Eric Robinson and fresh call-up Nathan Gerbe.
Jack Roslovic had a golden chance on a breakaway shortly after only to be denied by McElhinney.
The Blue Jackets would have to kill off another penalty when Kole Sherwood was called after he gave Anthony Cirelli an extra gloved punch after the whistle. Again, the penalty killers came up strong, but their best penalty killer proved to be Elvis when he made a great pad save on an attempt in close off of a slap pass that seemed to fool everybody but him.
At the game’s halfway mark, the teams were tied up in shots at ten apiece. Exciting stuff.
With just over five minutes remaining in the period, Tampa found the equalizer. Laine came through the neutral zone casually and turned it over when the puck just slowly rolled off his stick. It was one of those plays that you just knew the puck was going to end up in the back of the net. Sure enough it would as Elvis attempted to flash the leather and failed to catch the puck and saw it bounce in behind him. It was one Elvis would want back and he did shoulder the blame for that in his post game presser (which is 100% worth watching.)
1-1 (Coleman from Gourde)
Shortly after, the Lightning would almost grab the lead when Patrik Laine and Cam Atkinson failed to connect in the offensive zone and sent Tyler Johnson the other way all alone. Thankfully, Dean Kukan had the angle and the speed to catch Johnson just as he closed in on Merzlikins to preserve the tie game.
Jackets headed into the third period all knotted up and leading the Lightning in shots 13-12. There was not much happening at all in this game...seriously.
This game is in the running to have the lowest combined xG at 5-on-5 of any contest this year in the NHL. 1-1 in actual goals as we hit the first media timeout of the third.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) April 23, 2021
The Lightning came out for the final period and took over and put the Jackets on their heels. Merzlikins and the Jackets would withstand the pressure and keep the game tied up until about nine minutes in.
Erik Cernak brought the puck into the zone with Killorn driving the net in a battle with Michael Del Zotto. As Killorn crossed the crease, his stick caught Elvis up high in the throat with no call. Killorn would gather the rebound from Cernak’s shot and slide it to an uncovered Ondrej Palat who was able to put it past the Columbus goaltender -- who may or may not have had time to reset after taking the high stick. Elvis immediately protested, and John Tortorella took a long look at the replay to see if it was worth a challenge. The play would not be reviewed, and we learned in Torts’ post game presser that it wasn’t able to be challenged for some reason. Elvis was not happy with the call and did NOT want to discuss it afterwards. Seriously, watch his post game comments.
From there, the Jackets’ anemic offense would fail to put forth much pressure. This was further exacerbated when Josh Dunne took his second penalty of the night when he was called for hooking Mathieu Joseph. How many games will Dunne sit out for those infractions? We’ve seen young players scratched for less.
The Jackets would kill their third penalty of the game to remain perfect on special teams tonight (1/1 PP and 3/3 PK), which would end up being one of the only bright spots of this game.
Elvis left the net with about three minutes left in the game. The Jackets failed to set anything up, struggling to even enter the offensive zone. Laine had a pretty rough sequence when he nearly gifted Gourde an easy empty netter, who hit the post. However, a few moments later, Laine whiffed on a point shot and the puck slid right to Blake Coleman who sent it the length of the ice for the empty net goal.
3-1 Lightning (Coleman from Laine)
Add another one in the loss column, but who’s counting anymore? With the loss tonight, the Blue Jackets lottery odds are 10.1% with seven games remaining. The Jackets face the Lightning again on Saturday night to wrap up the season series.