The scoreboard may not entirely show it at the moment, but the Tampa Bay Lightning are starting to take over against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Thanks in large part to an absolutely dominant second and third period performance on Saturday, the Lightning were able to hold on for a 3-2 win to take a 2-1 lead in their First Round matchup.
When you look at these two teams on paper it is not hard to see which one has the superior talent.
It is Tampa.
That is not meant as any disrespect to a fierce Blue Jackets team that has given the league fits this season and is a worthy playoff team and a worthy opponent for any NHL contender. It is simply the fact that Lightning roster is loaded with All-Stars and individual award winners. It is, by almost every objective measure, a great team and has been for several years now. None of that mattered last year when the Blue Jacket stunned them in a four-game sweep, and it had not yet mattered through the first two games of this series that resulted in a split and a lot of saves from Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo. Hockey can be funny sometimes like that.
But on Saturday night the Lightning really started to show some of flashes of dominance they are capable of when everything is clicking, and they finally started to break through the wall that Korpisalo has constructed around his net.
The Lightning received goals from Alex Killorn, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman in Saturday’s win, with the latter two coming during a second period onslaught that saw Tampa Bay begin to shift the game — and maybe the series? — in its favor.
Point’s goal extended his current point streak to six consecutive games and snapped a 1-1 tie, while Hedman followed it up with a goal of his own just a few minutes later.
Even though Columbus’ Eric Robinson scored an early third period goal to cut the deficit back to one, the Blue Jackets were never really able to mount much of a push after that and it never really felt like they were a threat to tie the game. Tampa Bay’s territorial domination over the final two periods resulted in a 59-13 edge in total shot attempts and a 26-7 shots on goal advantage.
This is not really a new development in this series. The Lightning controlled the pace over the first two games of the series as well — maybe not to that extent — but were simply unable to beat a white-hot goalie that has been doing everything in his power to single-handedly will his team to victories.
On Saturday, they were finally able to break through with three goals on 34 shots. Maybe not an offensive explosion by the standard the Lightning have set for themselves, but given that in Games 1 and 2 they managed just four goals on 125 shots over eight periods of hockey (including five overtimes) it sure seemed like it was.
One of the other big turning points in on Saturday came in the first period when the Blue Jackets had an extended 5-on-3 power play but were unable to score. At one point Emil Bernstrom had a fantastic look at a wide open net but simply misfired on his shot. The Blue Jackets did not score on the power play, something that turned out to be a big missed opportunity.
No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets (Series tied 1-1)
Tuesday, Aug. 11: Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 2 (5OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Blue Jackets 3, Lightning 1 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 15: Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 2
Monday, Aug. 17: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Tampa Bay at Columbus – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD