There have been some stunning storylines in the first round of the playoffs this year and at the top of many lists has to be the Columbus Blue Jackets’ dominance of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Blue Jackets put themselves ahead two games to none after Friday’s contest. Columbus stunned Tampa’s home crowd into silence, taking a 5-1 victory on the plane home to Ohio.
“It’s half the wins that we need,” Columbus forward Matt Duchene said. “We’re keeping our heads down and our eyes on the prize.”
Duchene had a goal and three assists Friday, while Cam Atkinson, Zach Werenski, Riley Nash, and Artemi Panarin also had goals for the Blue Jackets. Mikhail Sergachev had the lone goal for Tampa.
For the Lightning, this is not the position they saw themselves in. They only lost twice in a row two times in the regular season, so this is rare terrain.
“The regular season is different than the playoffs,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “Things just happen so fast. Alarms are going off. This is a five-alarm fire. But it’s adversity and sometimes that’s good that you have to go through stuff like this to see how we respond. One thing I do know about being with this group is, they find a way.”
The Lightning have to find a way, but it won’t be easy. They’ve been largely overwhelmed by the Blue Jackets, who’ve outscored them 9-4 in the series thus far and have made the most of their opportunities. Columbus is three for six on the power play in the series, a fair shade above their 28th overall power play from the regular season.
Meanwhile, Tampa hasn’t secured a power play goal yet.
Worse, a frustrated Nikita Kucherov is likely headed for discipline from the league after his ugly Game Two hit on Markus Nutivaara. The Russian has been held off the scoresheet both games.
Tampa Bay has to pull off wins on the road or they’re kaput. Columbus has all the momentum as the series swings home and, if the Lightning don’t have Kucherov in the lineup due to a suspension, they could take the series in shocking fashion.
History tells the story. Teams that’ve won the first two games of a playoff series on the road have about an 80 percent chance of winning the thing (72-20), which clearly does not bode well for Tampa.
And, really, this is the most difficulty this team has faced all season. Things have gone their way and they’ve ironed out a beautiful showing in the regular season, but they were booed off the ice Friday at Amalie Arena. They’ll have to pull their act together, win some board battles and lock down their net while staying out of the penalty box.
Easier said than done, but this is supposed to be the Tampa Bay Lightning, for crying out loud.
(Photo credit: NHL.com)