Resilience, a noun that could be used regarding both the Blue Jackets and the Bolts during playoffs round 1. These two teams opened up the series with a 5OT game, one of the longest in NHL history that Tampa Bay closed out with a win. An outstanding game 1 set the tone for the remainder of the series. Game 2, Columbus controlled majority of the game start to finish to redeem their 5OT loss two nights before. We have seen that the Bolts are at their best when the have early control and/or when they’re not forced to play the opponents way. Learning quickly from game 2, the Lightning played with determination, simplicity, and strategy. Although the first ten minutes of the 1st period looked to be awarded to the Blue Jackets, but it was the Bolts ability to kill off three power plays and a 5 on 3 that stole the show and ignited the Tampa Bay team. Awarding the Lightning a 2-1 victory. Game 4 was a predicted toss up for which team would be hungrier…yet the Lightning played another efficient game. Racking up O-zone time, jamming up Columbus’ net, getting the puck to the center and playing their game. Which brings us to game 5, the game that would push the Bolts into round 2 or give the Blue Jackets a fighting chance…
Game 5 the Bolts opened up with their synergistic 3rd line. Coleman, Gourde, and Goodrow have been a significant piece to this Tampa Bay team, creating momentum every time they touch the ice. Whether they win the face off or not, they know how to push the puck towards the net, apply pressure, and level up on the physicality. Slightly over five minutes into the period with a face off in the Blue Jackets’ o-zone, Cirelli gets a pass off to Cernak who chances a long shot that Johnson gets a tip on for a goal. Getting the Lightning on the board 1st. Roughly a minute later, Bogosian gets the puck, passing up to Coleman who skillfully reads Korpisalo sending the puck to the bottom left corner and extending Tampa’s lead 2-0. As the 1st period winded down, the Lightning still played a controlled game until penalties began ramping up. At the 10:10 mark Columbus started up their first of six power plays for the game and with seconds left, Foligno gets the Blue Jackets on the score board. Power play number 2 came with a little over 5 minutes left in the period and the Bolts killed it off, closing the 1st with a 2-1 lead.
Period 2, Cooper put his 3rd line back on the ice, but 31 seconds in Columbus stacked their third power play of the game. In short, the Blue Jackets controlled nearly 90% of the 2nd period demanding more o-zone time and possession. Near the halfway point of the period, Tampa delivers Columbus their fourth power play, which the Blue Jackets’ Stenlund thanked them for by tying up the game 2-2. With 15.8 seconds left, Wennberg gave Columbus the lead, topping the Lightning 3-2, then the Blue Jackets drew a roughing penalty with under 2 seconds to start the 3rd period with their 5th power play.
Tampa got right to work in the 3rd, killing off the penalty…Yet, 9:33 into the period, Bjorkstrand makes the Bolts’ winning chances grim notching their lead 4-2. Determined not to play a game 6, Tampa began fighting for control of the 3rd. 7:59 left on the clock, A diagonal pass from Kucherov, directed from Point to Shattenkirk who winds up for an unstoppable shot on goal putting the Bolts back in the game. Sealing an overtime fate, Kucherov takes a shot on Korpisalo that rebounds. Point gets his stick on the puck for a pass to Cirelli, bouncing off his skate to tie the game 4-4. Hitting the ice with equivalent focus to period 1, Tampa began lighting up shots towards Columbus’ goal. 5:12 into overtime, Kucherov proving clutch yet again gets a pass off to Point in perfect position for a 1 on 1 with Korpisalo and a backhand shot to the top of the net will send the Bolts to round 2 of the playoffs and silence questions regarding last year’s playoff sweep. Tampa will find out soon if they take on the NY Islanders or the Washington Capitals.