Following a couple of regulation losses, the Lightning really needed two points from this game at Columbus. And they got them.
It was a game of momentum swings. When the Lightning had the wind at their back, they grabbed the lead and later extended it. Although the Blue Jackets did tally a couple of momentum-fueled third-period goals, they were not able to do any damage earlier in the game when they surged. Andrei Vasilevskiy, who finished with 33 saves, was a big reason why Columbus was held off the board until the closing minutes.
The Blue Jackets hadn’t played a game since January 30, but the layoff didn’t negatively affect their start. They came out of the gates with plenty of jump, and they generated several dangerous looks. Vasilevskiy turned them all aside, however, keeping the game scoreless.
As the period neared the halfway point, the Lightning took over the game’s momentum. They dominated play in the second half of the frame. A four-minute high-sticking penalty on Kent Johnson put the Lightning on an extended power play, and they converted. Brandon Hagel’s left-circle shot led to Nick Paul’s rebound goal from the slot at 15:40.
The Lightning maintained their hold on momentum into the second period. In the opening minute of the frame, Anthony Cirelli worked the puck from his own end to Hagel in the neutral zone. Hagel was along the boards near the player benches, and Ivan Provorov went for a big hit. In doing so, Provorov left the middle of the ice open. Cirelli jumped up in the play, and Hagel slid him the puck. Cirelli had a breakaway from the red line — he finished a backhand shot at :49.
The Blue Jackets received their first power-play chance at 5:22 of the second. Although they didn’t score on it, the man advantage helped get their game in rhythm. They applied consistent pressure for the rest of the period. Columbus finished the frame with 14 shots, but Vasilevskiy stopped them all.
When Severson received an extra minor penalty leading up to a fight with Darren Raddysh in the period’s final few seconds, the Lightning went on their third power-play chance of the game. The man advantage carried over into the third, and Steven Stamkos ripped a one-timer into the net at :23.
Up 3-0, the Lightning managed the first half of the period very well. But in the second half of the frame, the Blue Jackets made a push. Boone Jenner’s deflection goal at 12:22 got them on the board, and they regained momentum. Jenner scored again, converting on a power play with another deflection at 15:50, and the Blue Jackets had several other close calls (both before and after Jenner’s second tally). But they couldn’t manage a third goal. Hagel’s empty-netter at 19:12 reestablished a two-goal lead and helped secure the victory.
The Lightning likely would have liked to avoid the drama that unfolded in the late stages of the third period. But the most important takeaway from this game was that they banked the two points they needed to end their losing streak.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Brandon Hagel — Lightning. Goal and two assists.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy — Lightning. 33 saves.
- Nick Paul — Lightning. Goal. 7-3 on faceoffs.