The biggest news in the NHL last night was the loss of the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening game of the first round of the playoffs. It was 4-3 for John Tortorella’s guys in a wild game which excited all the hockey fans.
Guests from Ohio dazed the hosts, and their fans with a remarkable comeback in the final period, scoring three goals, and erasing the deficit which was huge in one moment.
“We were fortunate, it’s just a great team win,” said Seth Jones who scored the fourth goal and froze the crowded Amalie Arena. “The belief in here is … obviously, we need that if we’re going to do anything.”
The Blue Jackets were down 3-0 at the end of the first period. Lightning came in flying into this event, smashing their opponent, the way they did throughout the entire regular part of the season – ruthlessly, precisely and swiftly.
Before the start of the second sequence, it appeared that the Blue Jackets might suffer one pretty nasty defeat. And the way that part of the match began pointed in that direction too.
Sergei Bobrovsky had 26 saves last night, and in the critical moments, the 30-year old goalie saved several shots and boosted the morale of his team.
One of those moments took place with 26 seconds into the second period. Nikita Kucherov, the guy who leads the league in points, had a perfect opportunity to increase the agony of the guests, but Bobrovsky denied his shot in front of the net.
Less than 25 seconds later, Kucherov hit the crossbar of Columbus’ goal, and from that moment on, the situation changed.
Whether was that because Lightning players underestimate the opponent or because of the stubbornness of the guests, the momentum on the ice switched sides.
Nick Foligno decreased the lead in the middle of the period, and gave hope to his team.
Then came the final part of the match, which saw three goals in Andrei Vasilevsky’s net. David Savard decreased it to 3-2, and John Anderson tied at 3-3, with a shorthanded score, making the Amalie Arena awfully silent.
Jones executed for 4-3 and a complete comeback with 5:55 before the end, giving his team a lead in the series for which just a few expected it might happen.
After the game, there was no celebration in Columbus’ locker room. The guys are aware that the toughest part is yet to come, as the Lightning are preparing a strong response, no doubt about that.
Jones himself spoke about that, mentioning that the series will only be much tougher from now on.
“We can’t get comfortable,” he said. “Nothing is going to get easier. It’s only going to get harder.”
The Blue Jackets defenseman wanted to credit his goalie, and said that it wasn’t for him, the team couldn’t create such a comeback.
“Bob made some huge saves, he shut the door for us when we needed it the most.”
Coach Tortorella had the same point of view about that, and he emphasized the role of Bobrovsky in this series, saying that the Russian goalie has to be on the highest possible level if his team is to have the slightest chance of eliminating Tampa.
“We don’t have a chance if he doesn’t play the way he played through the second and the third,” Tortorella was honest after the game.
Columbus lost all three games in the regular part of the season against Tampa Bay, and those defeats were severe. The total goal difference was 17-3 in favor of the Lightning, and all victories came by four or more goals margin. Because of that, the outcome and the way things developed on the ice were so shocking.
But there is no time for relaxing, as these two sides meet already this Friday in Game 2. After that, there will be two more clashes in Ohio on Tuesday and Thursday.
No doubt, the NHL playoffs promise exciting battles this year.