The Columbus Blue Jackets fell into an early 2-0 hole, climbed out for a two-goal lead, then blew that lead with 1:38 left in the game, and lost in overtime. Playing from behind, trying to protect a lead, losing the lead, and heart break. Columbus lost in overtime for the second time this series and the third time this postseason. This loss ends the playoff run for the Blue Jackets.
For the fourth-straight year the team made the playoffs. In those four years, they’ve played six postseason series, including this year’s Qualifying Round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Flow of the Game
Columbus center Pierre-Luc Dubois tried to set the tone for the game early, pushing and shoving after whistles, along with a solid elbow to the head of Lightning forward Brayden Point. Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson’s beautiful tip past Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo just over five minutes into the game didn’t change the mood. The Lightning scored the first goal in every game except Game 1.
The Lightning’s second goal, just 1:01 later, was scored by Blake Coleman following a faceoff win by linemate Yanni Gourde. Columbus continued to battle. Just a few minutes later, Blue Jackets Nick Foligno and Riley Nash had a two-on-one foiled by Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s perfectly timed poke check.
The play did produce the first Blue Jackets power play of the game. They recorded three shots on goal and four additional attempted shots. One second after the end of the power play, Foligno, all alone in the low slot, popped a backhanded shot past Vasilevskiy. Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg earned assists on the goal.
Under three minutes later, Lightning forward Alex Killorn went to the box for slashing Wennberg. The second Columbus power play was stifled by the Lightning penalty killers. They found several opportunities to send the puck all the way down the ice, forcing the Blue Jackets to regroup and skate the length of the ice, eating up precious time on the man-advantage.
The first period ended with the Lightning leading 2-1, but the Blue Jackets held the edge in shots on goal (10-7). The teams were equal in faceoffs (11 each) and blocked shots (six each). Tampa Bay held an edge in hits (16-13). Officially, the Blue Jackets were zero-for-two on the power play.
Defenseman Seth Jones led all players in time on ice (TOI) at 10:08 (over half of the period), including a team-leading 2:38 on the power play. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman had just under seven minutes TOI in the first period, trailing only teammate Erik Cernak (7:29).
The second period was barely underway when Coleman took a slashing penalty, chopping Wennberg’s stick in half. Columbus spent the middle minute of the power play with great puck possession in the Tampa Bay zone, with three shots.
Gus Nyquist couldn’t buy a break in this series. In Game 5, he had three of the first seven Blue Jackets power play shots on goal. He ended the series with a single assist (and only two for the entire postseason). Nyquist seemed to bring out the best in Vasilevskiy.
Six minutes into the period, Coleman and Columbus defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov went to the penalty boxes on matching minors. It was only three minutes later when the Blue Jackets started their fourth power play. Thirty-four seconds into the power play, the Blue Jackets’ Kevin Stenlund scored his first-ever NHL playoff goal in only his second postseason game, tying the game.
Columbus took the lead – their first lead of the game – with just 16 seconds left in the second period. Wennberg’s shot from between the circles went through a lot of traffic, including Atkinson and Foligno (who was credited with an assist on the goal, as was Gavrikov).
Two seconds before the end of the period, Tampa Bay’s Patrick Maroon took a roughing penalty, the Lightning’s fifth penalty of the game. Columbus had almost a full power play to carry over to the third period – and nice, fresh, smooth ice on which to work.
The 1:58 of power play time to start the third period was uneventful for Columbus. Zero shots and virtually no urgency. That dropped the Blue Jackets to 1-for-5 on the day (20%) and 3-for-19 (15.8%) on the series.
Just about halfway through the period, a pinching poke-check by the Blue Jackets’ Gavrikov sent the puck to Oliver Bjorkstrand who passed to Dubois, then poked home a rebound to give Columbus a 4-2 lead. Lightning coach Cooper challenged the goal, arguing that Dubois’ skate took Vasilevskiy off his feet. That, in fact, is what happened, but Dubois had been pushed into the goalie by Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.
Columbus immediately went to its sixth power play as the failed challenge led to a delay of game penalty. (It was served by Patrick Maroon. Perhaps because of his familiarity with the penalty box?) There seemed to be a greater sense of urgency on this power play, but it generated only one shot for Columbus and a good scoring chance for the shorthanded Lightning.
A half-minute after the power play expired, the Lightning brought the score to within one goal on a shot by Kevin Shattenkirk (assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Point). It was a classic end-to-end rush with crisp passing.
With 1:38 to go in the game, the Lightning, skating six-on-five, tied the score. A puck that bounced off the skate of Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli slowly made its way passed Korpisalo and into the Columbus goal. (Assists were credited to Kucherov and Point.)
That goal meant yet another overtime for the Blue Jackets. (Oh, and the Lightning, too.) Five overtimes in Game 1 of this series followed a pair of overtime games for Columbus in the Qualifying Round against the Maple Leafs. Ten games this postseason for the Blue Jackets, four of them decided in overtime.
The game ended with a score by Point just over five minutes into the first overtime. A simple dump-in by the Lightning went behind the Columbus goal. Korpisalo stopped the puck, reversed it to Savard along the left boards. Savard then sent the puck behind the net to Gabrikov. After bouncing off Gavrikov’s skate, the puck slid toward the right boards.
Hard-charging Kucherov scooped up the puck before it could get to Blue Jacket forward Bjorkstrand (who was passively waiting for the puck to arrive). A quick pass to Point, undefended in the slot, a backhand shot over Korpisalo, and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ season ended.
By the Numbers
The Blue Jackets outshot the Lightning 41-25 for the game. In shot attempts, including missed and blocked shots, we can see some of the flow of the game:
- 1st Period: Columbus 23, Tampa Bay 15
- 2nd Period: Columbus 43, Tampa Bay 9
- 3rd Period: Columbus 10, Tampa Bay 15
- Overtime: Columbus 1, Tampa Bay 9
Columbus forward Boone Jenner, usually one of the top skaters for the team, logged only 11 shifts for 8:03 TOI. (No word at this time on any possible injury.) Liam Foudy’s TOI rose to 10:37 from 5:34 in Game 4. Fellow fourth liners Eric Robinson (7:13) and Stenlund (7:35, 1:32 PP) saw limited ice time.
After the Lightning took a 2-0 lead, Columbus scored four-straight goals. That was the second time this postseason. (They also did so in Game 3 of the Qualifying Round against Toronto.)
For the second time this postseason, the Blue Jackets surrendered a tying goal with less than two minutes left in the game. This game, the score that tied the game came with 1:38 left in the third period. In Game 4 against Toronto, there were on 27 seconds left on the clock. The Blue Jackets lost both games in overtime.
Korpisalo had a very good postseason, despite his record of 3-5. Of goalies who played at least five games (as of the end of today’s Blue Jackets-Lightning game), he was second in shots against (320), first in saves (301), second in save percentage (.941), and sixth in goals against average (1.90, down from third at 1.57 after Game 4).
Coming Up Next
The NHL Entry Draft in October. And a whole lot of work has to be done by Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen as he tries to put together the 2020-21 Blue Jackets roster. With a “flat” salary cap for the coming season, some tough decisions will need to be made.
Columbus has a touch over $5.2 million in available cap space. But among the seven restricted free agents who need new contracts are first-line center Dubois, tough (but injured) forward Josh Anderson, and second-pair defenseman Gavrikov. Thankfully, there are no key unrestricted free agents to retain and the goalie situation is sorted out for two more seasons.
Pete Bauer is both a hockey fan and player. As a columnist for The Hockey Writers.com, he covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, NCAA hockey, and NHL trends, statistics, and history. He’s considered the go-to guy for info on the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHL Players’ Association and other hockey-related legal mumbo-jumbo. He’s a frequent guest on a variety of podcasts. You’ll find all of his THW columns here. Pete is also the author of over a dozen books on photography, digital imaging, and graphics, including “Photoshop CC for Dummies.”