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NHL Playoff Game Day: 8-19-20 Blue Jackets v Lightning

Lightning steal victory and evict Columbus from the bubble.

CBJ-4
TB-5 (OT)

Tampa Bay Wins the Series 4-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 41 shots for the OT win. Would've like to have seen one or two more situational saves, but his performance was OK for someone under siege most of the contest.

First Period
5:38 TB Johnson (3), (Cernak, Cirelli)
6:39 TB Coleman (1), (Bogosian)
11:51 CBJ Foligno (2), (Wennberg, Atkinson)(PP)

Second Period
9:35 CBJ Stenlund (1), (Jones, Atkinson)(PP)
19:44 CBJ Wennberg (3), (Gavrikov, Foligno)

Third Period
9:33 CBJ Bjorkstrand (3), (Dubois, Gavrikov)
12:01 TB Shattenkirk (1), (Point, Kucherov)
18:22 TB Cirelli (1), (Point, Kucherov)

Overtime
5:12 TB Point (5), (Kucherov)

Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli were the game's first and second stars.

This game was a case study in how fast fortunes can change in this sport. The Lightning staked themselves to a 2-0 lead quickly in this game and looked in total control the first ten minutes of the game like they were run Columbus out of the arena. Next thing you know, there's a puck management error that leads to a PK that leads to a Blue Jackets rebound goal and the Lightning can't get their intensity back up in an elimination game. By the time they found themselves in a 4-2 hole in the Third Period, Moneypuck's game model was giving them a whopping 2.8% chance to win. But Korpisalo was very mortal today and gave up a semi-soft goal in the First Period and then another semi-soft goal to Shattenkirk and from that point on the rally was on and it was all Lightning again. The fancy stats show that nearly 2/3 of the expected goals the Lightning had today came from that Shattenkirk goal to the eventual Point game winner as the team poured it on to put the Blue Jackets away once and for all.

Did the Lightning deserve to win this game? Absolutely not. Do teams that win it all have to find ways to manufacture wins when they're not at their best in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? They do. And, to win a series against this opponent in the manner that the Lightning had to do it by humbling themselves and playing a smarter more simplified game just lays the groundwork for better things in subsequent rounds. This team was not the best version of itself in this series, but still managed to win in five games. There's something to be said for that, especially given last season's baggage.

Brayden Point's going to mess around a win a Conn Smythe if he keeps going like this.

Mitchell Stephens had 1 shot and 5 hits in 7:24. He was also 40% on 5 draws.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Day: 8-17-20 Lightning v Blue Jackets

Lightning's thumpers have their day.

TB-2
CBJ-1

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the win. Unquestionably his best game of the series thus far.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
0:16 TB Goodrow (1), (Coleman, Gourde)
4:09 TB Gourde (2), (Shattenkirk, Goodrow)
5:48 CBJ Atkinson (3), (Dubois, Werenski)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow were the game's first and second stars.

Columbus came out and gave an effort as was expected as they tried to give themselves a realistic shot in this series. They had an early flurry of possession, but the Lightning kept most of Columbus' activity outside on the perimeter. The Lightning third line then struck in the Second Period for a pair of early goals and left Columbus to chase the game. The Blue Jackets had a good push once they got a greasy goal, but a Second Period power play helped the Lightning settle down and they managed the game reasonably well from there. Columbus really looks like a team that has burned the candle at both ends and we'll see what they have left for Game Five. Seth Jones looked near ready to keel over at times in this game.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 8-15-20 Lightning v Blue Jackets

Lightning ride Espo's Rule to critical Game Three win.

TB-3
CBJ-2

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 17 shots for the win. I'd have liked to have seen him step up and make a big situational save on Columbus' first goal under the circumstances, but for the most part it was a night where Vasilevskiy just didn't have much to do as the Lightning eventually doubled up Columbus in shots.

First Period
15:48 TB Killorn (2), (Cirelli, Bogosian)

Second Period
1:49 CBJ Nash (1), (Nyquist)
14:16 TB Point (4), (McDonagh, Kucherov)
18:53 TB Hedman (1), (Verhaeghe, Paquette)

Third Period
1:37 CBJ Robinson (1), (Nash, Wennberg)

Victor Hedman and Brayden Point were the game's first and second stars.

Another strange game in a series full of strange games, but in the end it points toward good things for the Lightning. They played a simply atrocious First Period getting into big penalty trouble and getting forechecked into the dirt, but killed off a 5-on-3 and escaped with a 1-0 lead against the run of play. They surrendered the lead on a neutral zone turnover that led to a quick 3-on-0 where Nash let them off the hook by shooting, but Vasilevskiy couldn't make the situational save. From that point on, though, you saw a dominant performance similar to what the Lightning put forth for much of Game One, albeit with less physical bite. They outshot Columbus 26-7 in the final 40 minutes of the game and earned the victory in the process. Part of the formula? Winning offensive zone faceoffs to generate a quick goal and tons of cheap possession. What a glorous sight to see. Brayden Point was particularly good in the f/o circles going 67% on his 12 draws tonight and you saw the possession advantage along with the mileage Columbus has had to put in start to wear on the Blue Jackets in this game. Bottom line: John Tortorella is a warlock, but at a certain point the human body isn't built to play that style against two opponents back-to-back like Toronto and Tampa Bay for the amount of games and minutes Columbus has had to play.

That said, John Cooper cannot allow his team to get fat and happy and pee it down the leg in Game Four. John Tortorella will get his team up to play and the Lightning cannot squander an opportunity to drive another stake into Columbus' heart the way they did in Game Two. Here's another test of this year's Lightning team and coaching staff. Can you keep a team down on the canvas when you've got them down? Because, bubble or no bubble, winning the Stanley Cup is still an attrition game as much as a talent game, and the quicker you can dispense of a physically taxing opponent like Columbus the better. So, were I Jon Cooper, I'd be putting the fear of God into my players that the Blue Jackets will be coming out and playing like their lives depend on it next time out because, knowing Torts, they kind of might.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Day: 8-13-20 Blue Jackets v Lightning

Lightning fail to find extra effort level in Game Two defeat.

CBJ-3
TB-1

Series Tied 1-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss. I'm not really mad at him for any of the three goals, particularly the third one where all Shattenkirk lacked was the matador's cape on the play.

First Period
5:24 TB Kucherov (2), (Palat, Point)
12:52 CBJ Murray (1), (Dubois)
18:35 CBJ Bjorkstrand (2), (Dubois, Texier)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
11:27 CBJ Wennberg (2), (Foudy, Foligno)

Maybe the worst thing that happened to the Lightning in this game was when Kucherov got the early goal to stake them to a 1-0 lead. The team came out well in the First Period and was outshooting and outchancing Columbus by a pretty good margin and Kucherov scored and you could see the team practically exhale in relief as if they'd won something already. Then Murray gets a goal a bit against the run of play and the Blue Jackets get a power play marker late in the period and the Lightning were chasing the game the rest of the way and never really fully got back the bite in their game. Did the Lightning play poorly? No. They outshot Columbus by a 3:2 margin and the fancy stats say all things being even this might've been a Lightning win. The problem with that is the Lightning are up against a hot goaltender and a defensive-minded team that's uber comfortable sitting on a small lead. So, moving forward, it requires the Lightning to refind that extra 5-10% of effort to get into the high traffic areas around the Blue Jackets net and try to unlock more greasy goals. Also, quite frankly, when you're facing a goaltender this hot you shouldn't be afraid of a little wet work. Sometimes you have to be unafraid to bump a hot goaltender physically to see if you can rattle them a little and get them off their game. The Lightning are a pretty straight laced bunch, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs is no place for choir boys. If that's what it takes, that's what it takes.

Mitchell Stephens played 8:20. When I look at some pretty calorie-free minutes by lower liners like Stephens, Paquette, and Maroon relative to what they put out in Game One, that's indicative of the lack of bite you saw today. Other guys like Blake Coleman played really well, but it requires a total team effort against a team like Columbus. You can't ever ease up or breath a sigh of relief until you're going through the handshake line with these guys. John Tortorella's a warlock and until you drive the stake in their heart four times, they're not going away. That's just reality.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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