Playoffs round 1, game 1 may have been one of the most memorable games this year, but game 3 might have been the best game the Bolts have played thus far. Tampa Bay opened up period 1 at what could have been a huge disadvantage giving the Blue Jackets 3 power plays and a 5 on 3 opportunity. Vasilevskiy was really put to work, but he makes it quite easy for his teammates to rely on him in crucial moments. The Lightning assisted Vasy in managing those tight situations and killing off the 5 on 3. Killorn said in his post-game press conference, “5 on 3 can create momentum either way”, which showed as the Bolts in a collected effort began to make Columbus play their game, allowing them to play more central and disrupt the Blue Jackets’ transitions. With 4:12 left in the 1st period, Killorn and Cirelli work up a turnover with great position on the ice. As they approached the net, one of Columbus’s defenders went for a dive and Korpisalo slid over preparing for a pass and Killorn went for the 5th hole on a backhanded shot, putting Tampa Bay on the board 1-0.
Period 2 is where the concern usually appears as the Bolts tend to let up, but not this game. Although less than 2 minutes in on an odd man rush the Blue Jackets’ Riley Nash ties up the game. This didn’t throw Tampa’s determination. They played with composure, consistency, and hustle as the defense played up most of the game helping to create more o-zone time, allowing guys to press into the center and get around the net. Just under 6 minutes to go in the 2nd, the Lightning win a faceoff in Columbus’ zone setting McDonagh up for a long shot that rebounded out, leaving Point to follow up for a goal giving Tampa a 2-1 lead. As the period winded down, the Bolts continued to control the game, transitioning well and forcing turnovers in the neutral zone. A helpful addition on the ice for the bolts was a productive Carter Verhaeghe with his first post season appearance replacing Stephens in the lineup. Verhaeghe had a game, creating opportunities to take his teammates to the net including a pass to Victor Hedman that Heddy with a quick release on the puck nails a 2-point lead for Tampa Bay.
Columbus storms the 3rd period with another early goal, getting them 1-point closer to the Lightning’s 3 goal lead. Yet again, this put Tampa on notice motivating them to be consistent and continue playing their game. 3rd period the Bolts played more of a defensive game to minimize any chances of the Blue Jackets settling up the score, leaving Korpisalo to clear the net with under 4 minutes left for the Blue Jackets to see what they can accomplish with 6 men on the ice and they were shut down by Tampa who took the win and a 2-1 lead in the series! The Lightning and Columbus are back at it Monday at 3pm. Will the Blue Jackets tie up the series or can the Lightning extend their lead?