Stunned Lightning vow to regroup against Blue Jackets
For a goaltender, it was close to a worst-nightmare scenario.
After allowing three first-period goals Wednesday, Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the ice and 26 seconds later was facing a 2-on-0 break against Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov, this season's Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL's scoring champion, and Steven Stamkos, a two-time league goal-scoring leader.
Bobrovsky didn't have any time to think about the consequences, sliding from post-to-post to stop Kucherov's one-timer.
"Huge," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno told NHL.com. "That gets us going. He doesn't make that save, then this game is out of reach."
Bobrovsky got some puck luck 24 seconds later, with the Lightning still on the power play, as Kucherov rang a slap shot off the crossbar.
However unlikely, the game turned after that. The Blue Jackets rallied for a 4-3 victory in the opener of the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the host Lightning, with Game 2 scheduled for Friday night.
"We have a 3-0 lead at home in the playoffs, it should be done and over with," Stamkos, the Lightning captain, told NHL.com. "So if anything, we learned a lesson (Wednesday). We'll be a lot better. We came out with a purpose, a lot of intensity, we got out to that lead by playing the right way. When you get away from that, against a good hockey team, they are going to make you pay."
How unlikely was the comeback? The Lightning, who tied an NHL record with 62 victories in the regular season and ran away with the Presidents' Trophy that goes to the team with the most points -- they finished with 128, 21 more than any other team -- were 31-1-2 leading after one period and 39-2-2 leading after two.
Foligno started the comeback with a breakaway goal midway through the second period and the Blue Jackets scored three times in the third, with Seth Jones getting the winner on the power play at 14:05 of the period.
"We just stuck with it," Jones told NHL.com. "We stuck with our game. Whether we came back or not we have to play a certain way; that's hard, that's physical, that's straight ahead. Once we start doing that we start feeling good about ourselves."
While the Lightning were the best team in the regular season, the Blue Jackets might have been the hottest at the end, winning seven of their last eight games to clinch a wild-card berth.
"I wouldn't say (we) relaxed, but we kind of sat back a little bit," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who returned for the opener after missing the last four games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, told NHL.com. "In the second period we were up 3-0 and (Kucherov) had a great look on the power play to make it four. But they got that one back, we turned pucks over, and they gained momentum and got some energy off of that.
"We have to give them credit. They played hard for 60 minutes. Good thing it's not a best-of-one, it's a best-of-seven. We'll learn from our mistakes today and make sure we bounce back right."
-- Field Level Media
Updated April 12, 2019