Blue Jackets weather early first-period storm, strike back on Lightning

The Blue Jackets start slow, but surge back to trip up Lightning; Tie series at one game apiece.

Less than 48 hours after the five-overtime marathon that was Game 1 on Tuesday afternoon and into the evening hours, it was going to be interesting to see how each team responded in Game 2.

Tampa Bay was the team that looked impressive out of the chute, playing to their brand of fast and electric hockey. They outshot the Blue Jackets 10-0 through the midway point of the first period before Columbus registered a shot. The Lightning also struck first with the game’s first goal.

But that would be the only marker for Tampa, as the Jackets took Game 2, 3-1, behind goals by Ryan Murray, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Alexander Wennberg. Joonas Korpisalo was brilliant yet again, making 36 saves, while his counterpart, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 19 saves.

Let’s get to the highlights.

On the first period goal by Tampa Bay, Nikita Kucherov was able to scoop and score down low, with Korpisalo out and unable to get any padding on it. The goal for Kucherov is the first of this series, and second overall going back to the round robin stage. The lone goal against the Blue Jackets is already more than his entire total of zero last April.

As Columbus looked for some kind of lift, they killed off the first Lightning power play chance, which could have been the spark they were seeking.

And sure enough, the Jackets got right back into it, weathering the first-half surge by the Lightning and getting the equalizing goal by Murray’s first of the playoffs. The dish from Pierre-Luc Dubois — Blue Jackets playoffs points-leader now with eight points — to Murray in the slot is just perfection, and Dubois also added a second assist later.

The momentum swing bouncing the other way, Columbus capitalized yet again at the 18:35 mark of the first period. Bjorkstrand’s first goal of the playoffs came via the power play, which the man-advantage has had success in general versus the Lightning going back to last year’s playoffs. For the game, they were 1-for-3, while Tampa was goalless on two tries.

Each team looking for that next big goal, Alex Killorn just whiffed on a centering pass by Tyler Johnson from the face-off circle to Korpisalo’s left.

Alongside Korpisalo, the defense continued to come up big and keep the score 2-1 after 40 minutes. The Lightning had the edge in shots 26-16, and edge in high-danger opportunities, 8-4. While three Blue Jackets — Murray, David Savard, and Zach Werenski — had two blocked shots to this point, Victor Hedman had five blocks to go with his five shots.

There’s been a lot of odd words strewn about lately regarding Seth Jones. Starting the third period down a goal, Yanni Gourde sent a lead pass for a breakaway to Barclay Goodrow, which the scoring attempt was successfully fended off by Jones, who should only be mentioned for the elite defender he really is.

Also, what the hell Wennberg?

You didn’t just score, but you completely faked everyone out. It’s his first goal this series, and second overall going back to the play-in round against the Maple Leafs.

Jon Cooper called for an empty net, which the Jackets couldn’t find the back of, but no worries as this lead was safe. The series now tied at one game apiece, the Jackets were outshot by Tampa 37-22, but the games are tightly contested as we’ve come to expect. The Lightning outhit Columbus 38-15, while Columbus had the edge in face-offs 30-29. Tampa Bay also had the final edge in high-danger chances, 10-6.

Cam Atkinson and Nathan Gerbe missed the contest, officially labeled as unfit to play. This meant Devin Shore got into his first career playoff game (5:52), and Emil Bemstrom (6:56) got back into the lineup for the first time since the Aug. 6 Game 3 matchup against the Maple Leafs.

In some other final numbers for the game, Jones once again led the way in ice-time (28:31), which is just under half of his Game 1 total. Hedman led the Lightning (26:47), and co-led the Lightning alongside Blake Coleman with six shots on net for the game. Savard, the team-leader with 36 blocked shots for the playoffs, finished the game with four. Vladislav Gavrikov, Jenner, and Werenski also ended with three blocked shots.

Game 3 will take place Saturday at 7:30 pm EST from Toronto. Columbus will get last change as the ‘home team’ and we have ourselves a series folks!

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