Give any team enough chances with the man advantage and eventually they'll score a goal. Something about a blind squirrel, right?
Despite mustering zero scoring chances and only three shots on goal over their first four power plays, the Columbus Blue Jackets used a pair of man advantage tallies late in the third period to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory over the Lightning.
The first period was all Columbus as the Lightning seemed to be in a funk from the opening puck drop. The first five scoring chances of the game went to the Blue Jackets, as the Nick Foligno line in particular for the Jackets went to work early down low, forcing Anders Lindback to make a couple of nice saves early while the Bolts got their feet under them.
They also got a little bit of early luck when, on a Columbus power play, a long point shot hit Brandon Dubinsky and redirected past Lindback but off the post and harmlessly into the corner.
Any opportunity to get some 5v5 offense going for the Lightning was smothered as the relentless pressure in Tampa Bay's end led to some undisciplined play by defenseman Radko Gudas. Corey Tropp got tangled up with Gudas behind the Lightning net, clearly interfering with him and making no attempt at the puck as he slammed Gudas into the boards. Gudas was noticeably agitated and took a couple of runs at Tropp resulting in a pair of consecutive minor penalties.
The Blue Jackets, mired in a special teams slump of their own, didn't try to set anything up in the offensive zone with their three straight power plays, instead opting for a lot of point-to-point passes looking to set up tips, deflections, and rebound opportunities around Lindback. The Lightning penalty killers did a good enough job of blocking shots and clearing the slot and the goalmouth to keep the game knotted at 0-0 after one despite being thoroughly outplayed by Columbus.
Ryan Johansen finally broke through for the Jackets in the 2nd period on a long shot from the center point that Lindback never saw due to traffic in front. But following the early marker, the Lightning started dominating control of the puck, making cleaner outlet passes and hemming the Jackets in their own end for long stretches. That drew a cross checking minor penalty to Brandon Dubinsky and put the Lightning on the power play with a chance to tie the game, which Alex Killorn did, tipping in a point shot from Matt Carle. Just moments later, Victor Hedman joined an end-to-end rush and finished a nice pass from Tyler Johnson to quickly turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.
The Jackets managed a few clean looks towards the Lightning net in the 2nd period, but the Lightning carried the balance of play, outshooting Columbus 12-7 in the period and earning the lead they built heading into the final twenty minutes.
The Lightning continued their undisciplined play in the third, however, handing the Blue Jackets their 5th power play early in the period. Columbus, who recently got notorious Lightning killer Nathan Horton back in the lineup, didn't waste much time evening the score as Horton snapped a long wrister past a screened Lindback to make it a 16 minute hockey game.
Radko Gudas -- always active on the scoresheet, especially in the PIMs column -- evened up his ledger a bit by drawing a retaliation penalty on Nathan Horton to put the Bolts on their third power play of the night. The Lightning got set up in the offensive zone with their top unit fairly easily, but couldn't muster anything towards Bobrovsky. At one point, Martin St. Louis seemed locked in on Teddy Purcell in the slot, forcing the puck there even though the Jacket's penalty killers were all collapsing in.
The teams seemed to trade power plays for the entire third period as the refs refused to put their whistles away, even in the final few minutes of a tied game. The Lightning got one more chance with their own power play, finally getting a good look towards the net on an intentional shot pass/redirect play with Ondrej Palat, but Sergei Bobrosvky made a terrific save in close to keep the score tied. A late hooking call to Tyler Johnson sent the Jackets on their sixth man advantage of the night.
The Lightning, now keenly aware of Nathan Horton lurking on left wing, left a gap in the center of their PK formation that allowed Jack Johnson to lurk in from the center point and snap a wrist shot that Mark Letestu appeared to tip down past the outstretched glove of Anders Lindback for the game-winner. The Lightning did pull their goalie and try to even the score 6v5, but failed to really threaten Bobrovsky with the extra skater, dropping the game 3-2 in regulation after holding a 2-1 lead to start the third.
- Columbus went 2/6 on the power play, converting on their final two opportunities. Tampa Bay was 1/4 on their power play. All ten penalties called in the game were minor penalties; neither team had any 5v3 time, and most were of the obstruction variety. Sometimes, that's the way the game is called and the Lightning needed to adjust. They did not, and they paid the price. Jon Cooper's AHL teams have had a tendency to jump into the penalty box like there's a freaking snack bar in there; it's something we haven't seen too much since Coop came to the Lightning but it's been a real issue in the past.
- Victor Hedman skated a whopping 24:19 in this contest, including more than 3 minutes on the PP and more than 4 minutes while shorthanded. He added another even strength point (a goal) and has, lately, really looked like the type of two-way workhorse defenseman that you build a defense corps around.
- Anders Lindback finished with an .893 save percentage, but the two power play goals drag that number down significantly. Horton's goal was a very nice wrist shot through a screen and Letestu's was tipped down right in front of the net; there was little Lindback could do on either goal. His even-strength save percentage was a healthy .952 allowing just one goal on 21 even-strength shots. But, with Bishop available to back up tonight and slated to start tomorrow, his time as the starter may be up.
- Tonight's loss marked only the 2nd time this season the Lightning lost after leading to start the third period. They are now 17-2 when starting the 3rd with a lead.
- While it's easy enough to point at the special teams (and lack of discipline) as the problem tonight, perhaps more troubling was a lack of energy and execution in a listless first period. Playing a "full sixty minutes" is a cliche, sure, but it's something the Lightning clearly did not do tonight in Columbus. After the first, there simply wasn't enough 5v5 time left in the remaining 40 minutes for the Lightning to work their even strength advantage over (another) Metropolitan Division foe.