The Tampa Bay Lightning take a 2-1 series lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets
The anticipated rematch series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets has been must-watch hockey through the first two games of the series, and while Game 3 didn’t take over six hours to complete like Game 1 did, it was still plenty entertaining.
The Lightning re-gained the series lead over the Blue Jackets with a 3-2 win in Game 3, moving two wins away from avenging last years first round sweep. Here are the winners and losers from Game 3.
Winner: Lightning’s confidence
This is the Lightning’s seventh playoff game against the Blue Jackets in the last two seasons, and this is the first time where it looked like they finally played to their ability.
Tampa Bay was obviously swept by Columbus last season, but even just in this series they were forced to a fifth overtime to finally beat them in Game 1, and were held to just one goal in Game 2, and questions were beginning to be raised about if Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo was going to steal this series.
In Game 3, Tampa Bay finally began to enforce a style of play that they were comfortable with, and put the Blue Jackets on their heels for a change. Korpisalo still played great, but he wasn’t unbeatable as the Lightning pierced him three times on 34 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy didn’t face a ton of work on just 17 shots against, but stated that afterwards that “for the first time in the series I felt great”.
They’ve significantly outshot the Blue Jackets through the first three games, and they’re getting production from every key part of their lineup with Steven Stamkos out. Compared to how they felt at this point in last season’s series, this must be a welcome change.
Loser: Blue Jackets’ offense
The Blue Jackets are obviously not a team built on their offense, but Game 3 was especially brutal in what should’ve been a must-win for them to continue building momentum and put doubt in the heads of the Lightning like they did last season.
The Blue Jackets were only able to muster 17 shots in the entire game, and only seven in the second and third period combined. They were missing Cam Atkinson, but their other best players like Dubois and Foligno were nowhere to be found. It doesn’t help that they also went 0/4 on the power play.
Depth players Riley Nash and Eric Robinson were the lone goal scorers for Columbus, and if they’re going to be overcome Tampa Bay in this series, they need more from their big guns. Korpisalo can’t do this by himself forever.
Perhaps the reason for the Blue Jackets lack of production, according to head coach John Tortorella, was that they just “hit a wall” considering all the hockey that they’ve played since the NHL’s return on August 1.
Honestly, that’s a pretty valid reason. Columbus played back-to-back overtime games on back-to-back nights in Games 3 and 4 in their qualifying round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and had to go the full five games. They then followed that up with the famous five overtime affair in Game 1 of this series that they would end up losing. At some point, the human body begins to break down a little bit.
Everybody on the Blue Jackets needs to rest their bodies as much as they can before Game 4 on Monday, because they’re not going to feel any better if they fall behind 3-1 in this series and have to dig even deeper to keep their season alive.
Winner: Brayden Point
Brayden Point continues to absolutely light it up for the Lightning in these playoffs, and scored another goal in Game 3 to put himself into the record books once again for the Lightning in this series.
With the goal, Point has scored a point in every game so far in both the round robin and the first round, and became the first player in Tampa Bay Lightning history to record a six-game point streak in the first six games of the postseason.
With Stamkos still out of the lineup, Point alongside of Kucherov has stepped up in a big way for Tampa Bay in their series. He’s been involved in four of their seven goals in this series, most importantly the game-winner in the fifth overtime of Game 1. If he continues to play the way he has, he can carry the Lightning far and make a case for a Conn Smythe trophy if they were to hoist the Stanley Cup at the end.