The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Friday night in Tampa.
A night that started out with high energy, thanks at least in part to an emotional pre-game ceremony retiring the number 26 worn by former Lightning captain Marty St. Louis, plus an early 1-0 lead, ended with the Bolts looking tired and on the wrong end of a 3-1 score.
“Well, first of all, they’ve got a really good team. They reeled off 16 in a row for a good reason. It’s too bad that we only had the 1-0 lead (after the first period). I thought we deserved a little bit better fate. I thought we played well. It was just tough for our guys to sustain it. They turned up their game a notch. We tried, it was just a little tougher for us to get the inside after a while and we weren’t getting our shots through. It was a little bit of bad breaks.” - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
The Lightning came out very strong and fairly dominated the Eastern Conference’s current best team, holding them to just six shots in the opening period while registering 19.
They would reap the benefits at 16:18 when Ondrej Palat broke out, pulled up at the top of the circle, passed backward to Valtteri Filppula who found Jonathan Drouin at the side of the net to score his 13th goal of the season. Fittingly, the default goal song tonight was “Louie, Louie” by the Kingsmen, Marty St. Louis’s signature celebration music during his 13 seasons with the Lightning. Unfortunately, it would only be heard once.
Throughout the game, the Blue Jackets were utterly intolerant of any traffic whatsoever in front of starting goalie Joonas Korpisalo, especially early on, leading to numerous instances of pushing and shoving any time a Lightning player got near the crease. It was a sound strategy as Koopisalo appeared to struggle controlling rebounds, at least early on.
The opening period ended with the Lightning up 1-0.
Now seems like a good time to briefly re-cap that pre-game ceremony. Paying tribute with speeches were former Lightning, and current Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, team owner Jeff Vinik (who presented St. Louis with a truck) and injured Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Also on hand were several members of the 2004 Stanley Cup championship team. The current Lightning team watched from the bench, wearing throwback jerseys with the number 26 on them, which they also wore during pre-game warmups later. St. Louis was honored several times by ovations from Lightning fans, especially as he broke down speaking about his mother, who passed away shortly after he was traded to the New York Rangers late in the 2014 season. The ceremony concluded with the traditional banner raising.
You’ll find more coverage of Marty St. Louis’ big night here.
In the middle period, the Lightning were unable to match the intensity they displayed in the opener. They didn’t play badly, and actually did a pretty good job of limiting scoring opportunities for the Blue Jackets, but were not nearly as aggressive as they had been in the first.
“I thought we started the right way in the first. We were skating, we were dictating the play but we sold out a bit in the second and gave them a couple of chances and you know a team like that, who’s been hot all season, you can’t let down and I think we did that in the second.” - Drouin
Columbus tied the game at 16:40 of the second on a really flukey goal. A shot from David Savard bounced off of Lightning defender Braydon Coburn, which threw off Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiey’s reaction to the shot. The puck then dropped right out of the sky like a gift from the heavens in front of Josh Anderson who scored easily.
The score was tied at one after two periods.
The Blue Jackets simply appeared to be stronger in the third period and the Lightning couldn’t match their effort.
At 4:29 of the third, Columbus scored what would be the eventual game winner with a power play goal from Nick Foligno, who was assisted on the play by Zach Werenski and Alexander Wennberg.
The Lightning had an opportunity to tie the game late when they went on the power play at 16:56. They would eventually pull Vasilevskiey for the two-man advantage but simply couldn’t set up an effective attack, and surrendering a shorthanded, unassisted, empty net goal from Boone Jenner with 1:05 remaining.
The Lightning will play their next six games on the road, starting with Monday night in Los Angeles against the Kings. Their next home game will be January 31 against Boston.