The Tampa Bay Lightning are one step closer to moving on in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Thanks to their 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday afternoon, they now have a commanding 3-1 lead in their First Round series and will have a chance to close it out on Wednesday afternoon. That would go a long way toward erasing the bitter taste that last year’s First Round meeting between these two has certainly left behind.
For the Lightning, this game was all about the trio of Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman, and Yanni Gourde.
That line was their best one way all day and seemed to be the only line that was able to push the pace. They scored both of Tampa Bay’s goals during a five-minute stretch early in the second period and completely shut down the Blue Jackets offense when they were on the ice. When that unit was on the ice the Lightning attempted 14 of the 19 total shot attempts, outscored Columbus 2-0, and dominated the scoring chances.
When that line was off the ice it was all Columbus.
Depth lines like this are incredibly important come playoff time because no team’s star players are going to be able to carry the offense every single night. There has to be a third (and sometimes) fourth line that can pick up the slack, and Tampa Bay received that in a big way on Monday.
Two of those players (Goodrow and Coleman) were acquired by the Lightning at the trade deadline in separate deals with San Jose and New Jersey.
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As for Columbus, well, this game has to feel like another punch to the gut in what has been an incredibly close series on the scoreboard.
Through four games the Lightning have only outscored the Blue Jackets by a 9-8 margin. All three Lightning wins have been by a single goal, including the five overtime thriller in Game 1 and Monday’s Game 4 win that pushed Columbus to the brink of elimination. What has to make Monday’s game so frustrating from a Blue Jackets perspective is that this was probably their best, most complete, and most impressive effort of the series. In Game 3 if felt as if Tampa Bay was starting to take over and show its dominance. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella wondered after the game if his team had simply hit a wall.
But they came out on Monday and spent much of the afternoon getting the better of the play. At times in the second and third periods it seemed liked Tampa Bay was barely holding on.
Making matters worse for Columbus is that just when it looked as if it was going to get off to a great start with an early Oliver Bjorkstrand goal, an offside challenge from Tampa Bay negated it and kept the game scoreless.
You can see that play in the video below.
There is no way to tell how Monday’s game would have gone had that goal stood, but it was a frustrating start to what ended up being a frustrating game for the Blue Jackets.
Now they find themselves in a position where they have to win three games in a row to move on.
As long as Joonas Korpisalo keeps playing the way he has in goal (and he was great again on Monday) they are going to have a chance, but they are going to need to find a way to generate a little more consistent offense on Andrei Vasileskiy and Tampa Bay’s defense to pull this off.
No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets (TB leads 3-1)
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 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 17: Lightning 2, Blue Jackets 1
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Columbus at Tampa Bay, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Friday, Aug. 21: Tampa Bay at Columbus – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD
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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.