It wasn't pretty as the Lightning nursed a one-goal lead for most of the night against a hard-working, physical Columbus squad until they seemed to find their footing in the final ten minutes, but the end result was a win, extending the franchise-record for consecutive home wins to ten.
"They're a hard team. They played hard. They finished all their checks. They're big. They've got speed, so it's a tough team to play down low and battle with. That's what they showed us tonight." - Lightning forward Ryan Callahan
A sloppy back and forth first period for both clubs saw the Lightning open the scoring with just :24 remaining when Brett Connolly scored on assists from Brenden Morrow and Jason Garrison.
That was it in terms of scoring for either side until the third period, with Columbus coming very close on occasion, including generating solid short-handed scoring chances on each of Tampa Bay's first three power plays.
The power play, which has been a concern for some time, looked particularly ineffective tonight with the Lightning going 0-for-4 with the man advantage and generating very few legitimate scoring opportunities in the process.
Yet another stellar effort from goalie Ben Bishop kept the Blue Jackets off the board and it began to look like Connolly's goal would have to be enough as Columbus pressed during the third period.
But at 10:02, the red-hot Cedric Paquette scored his 10th goal of the season, getting helpers from Jonathan Drouin and Alex Killorn and giving the Bolts some much needed breathing room.
Just under two minutes later at 11:43, a lapse by Columbus in their own zone found Valtteri Filppula with the puck all alone just inside the blue line. He fired the puck home for the unassisted marker to spread the lead to 3-0.
Columbus pulled goaltender Curtis McElhinney with about four minutes remaining and with the benefit of the extra skater, the Blue Jackets finally spoiled Bishop's shutout bid at 16:34, on a goal by Ryan Johansen on assists from David Savard and Ryan Murray.
Of course, the Columbus net remained empty as they attempted to find a way to get two more, aided by a Hooking call incurred by Anton Stralman that gave the Blue Jackets two minutes of a 6-on-4 attack. but Bishop held firm. He ended up making 34 saves on the night.
"It was another good game. Every win's been a little bit different, tonight was a little bit different. It took the guys a little bit longer to get going, but when they did, they got a couple in the net." - Bishop
"It's hard to get through the neutral zone; they forecheck you hard, they hit, they got big 'D' when you're down there. They kind of smother you in the offensive zone. They're a tough team to play against. As we talked to our guys today, we thought it was pivotal that we had to get the lead and we did that." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
The Lightning end the homestand and the month of January on top of the Atlantic Division with a record of 32-15-4 and will be in action again on Tuesday night when they visit the St. Louis Blues.
- As mentioned above, the franchise-record streak for consecutive home wins now stands at ten.
- This was the third and final regular season meeting between the Blue Jackets and Lightning, with Tampa Bay taking the series 2-1.
- The Lightning now hold an all-time record of 8-2-0 at home vs Columbus.
- The Lightning are 15-1-2 so far this season when leading after one period and 22-0-1 when leading after two.
- The Lightning actually entered tonight's game in third place, due to wins by Montreal and Detroit played earlier in the day.
- Paquette has a four-game points-scored streak, with five goals and an assist.
- Killorn has posted two goals and four assists in his last five games.
- The Lightning's two game streak of scoring a shorthanded goal ended.
- Paquette and Filppula became the eighth and ninth members respectively of the Lightning's double-digit goal club this season.
- The Lightning honored Norma and Joseph Robinson as the 26th Lightning Community Heroes of the season during the first period of tonight's game. The Robinsons, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Sulphur Springs Museum, Sulphur Springs Alliance, PCAT and YMCA Sulphur Springs After School Program. Sulphur Springs has been characterized as one of the most poverty stricken areas in Tampa Bay. However, this did not deter the Robinson's from settling in the area after moving from New York in 1997 post-retirement. They have both viewed their residence in Sulphur Springs as an opportunity to be stewards in creating a better environment for those living in their community.For the past eighteen years, the Robinson's have been diligent in developing community initiatives and assuming volunteer leadership positions to revive Sulphur Springs. They started the Weed & Seed program in Sulphur Springs, a federal program aimed at revitalizing poverty stricken communities and controlling crime, drug abuse and gang activities in these targeted areas. The Robinson's also created the Sulphur Springs Neighborhood Alliance comprised of residents, churches, and other organizations. To recognize Sulphur Springs' unique past as a vacation destination and its African American roots, the Robinson's developed the Sulphur Springs Museum & Heritage Center. Their vision is to use this museum as an entrepreneurial learning experience for the younger generation to operate the Museum's gift shop, as well as social media and marketing, while under the guidance of mentors. The Robinson's have made such a noticeable impact on the Sulphur Springs community that a public library was named in their honor, the Norma & Joseph Robinson Partnership Library.