It has come full circle. After getting embarrassed and outworked in last season’s playoffs by the upstart Columbus Blue Jackets, the Tampa Bay Lightning exorcised their demons and vanquished Columbus in Game Five, 5-4 in overtime. Brayden Point scored the overtime winner after Columbus dictated much of the pace in the game. The Lightning blew a two goal lead, and then came back from a two goal deficit to secure the series.
Let’s get into the recap.
Tampa Bay came out strong to open the game with their forecheck causing issues for the Blue Jackets. Columbus did manage to push back at times, but most of their offensive zone time, at this point, was spent on the perimeter. Once Tampa Bay pushed play back into Columbus’s zone, they managed to pin the Blue Jackets and create come more chances. The best one, early on, came from Cedric Paquette off a feed from Pat Maroon.
KORPISALO! #CBJ pic.twitter.com/zgvPGQgOE1— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 19, 2020
Shortly after this chance, the Lightning got an offensive zone faceoff where they managed to strike first.
Faceoffs were a black eye for the Lightning in Game Four; winning only 29% of the draws in that victory. Here, Tyler Johnson wins a faceoff cleanly to Anthony Cirelli who feeds it to Erik Cernak. While Cernak corrals the puck and scans the zone, Johnson and Cirelli position themselves to take away the eyes of Joonas Korpisalo. Once Cernak fires it, Johnson tips is and fools Korpisalo for the opening goal of the game. Fun fact, Tampa Bay has scored the opening goal in every game of this series except for Game One.
The Lightning kept their pressure up after Johnson’s goal, especially in the neutral zone. Their ability to score off transition was beautifully displayed just one minute after Johnson’s goal.
First, we haven’t talked much about Zach Bogosian in this series, but he has quietly been very good for Tampa Bay. Obviously being paired with Victor Hedman most of the time helps, but his decision making, positioning, and skating have all been far better than anyone could’ve expected. It’s thanks to his quick thinking in the neutral zone that helps Blake Coleman carry the puck into the offensive zone and fire one past Korpisalo.
Second, it’s fantastic that Coleman finally got his first with the Lightning. It’s been a long time coming for him, especially with how strong he’s been in the postseason. His emotion after the goal tells everyone everything they need to know about the importance of this goal.
Unfortunately, Tampa Bay failed to maintain the pressure they established early in the period as they allowed Columbus a few dangerous chances after going up 2-0. None were more dangerous than this broken two-on-one that saw Riley Nash have his great scoring chance negated by a phenomenal poke check by Andrei Vasilevskiy.
VASY. #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/v6D2YEXKIe— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 19, 2020
Bogosian was penalized for slashing on this play which came back to bite them as Columbus converted on their power-play opportunity after Tampa Bay’s penalty kill coverage failed them.
Someone needs to pick Nick Foligno up here. Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, Alex Killorn, someone has to stop puck watching and play the man. If any of them just put their body and tie his stick up this goal doesn’t happen. Rather inexcusable from a penalty kill that knows better.
The next few minutes saw the momentum lean in Columbus’s favor. Another slashing penalty for Tampa Bay, this time on Alex Killorn, saw the Lightning kill it more effectively and regain some momentum. The remainder of the period saw both teams trade zone time, but nothing dangerous was really generated.
Overall, Tampa Bay controlled the shot attempt battle at 53% (15-13), lost the scoring chance battle 7-3, and also lost the quality battle to Columbus with only 37%. A great start from the Lightning was squandered after Columbus’s power-play goal. Hopefully, Tampa Bay will come out with a more concerted effort in the second.
This period doesn’t deserve a recap. It was an absolute dumpster fire.
Simply put, Tampa Bay was outskated, outworked, and outplayed for the entirety of the second period. Columbus put 24 shots on Vasilevskiy and attempted 42 in the period. The Lightning continued to take stupid penalties: Coleman for slashing, Sergachev for hooking, Maroon for roughing. The Blue Jackets didn’t need to even work that hard to end up taking the lead by the end of the period. Tampa Bay was so out of sorts an AHL team could’ve victimized them.
The penalty kill has been an inconsistent mess in this game. At times they do a great job limiting what Columbus can generate and other times they look lost.
We’ll see what kind of resolve this team has once the third period gets going, but the past 30 minutes have been embarrassing for the Lightning.
Also, I’ll get to the officiating later in the recap.
Tampa Bay failed to bring any kind of urgency to start the third period. Columbus dictated everything they wanted in the first 10 minutes of the period. The Lightning did little to help themselves with poor positioning in all three zones and failing to win puck battles with any kind of consistency.
Columbus added onto Tampa Bay’s misery with their fourth straight goal of the game.
Honestly, this entire sequence is fine for Tampa Bay; until Coleman tries a no-look spin pass with two Blue Jackets players near him. This turnover completely throws the entire play out of whack for the Lightning. They go from a near completed breakout to being outnumbered down low in their defensive zone in a blink. Sergachev accidentally tripping Vasilevskiy is horrifically unlucky, and that’s the biggest reason why Oliver Bjorkstrand scores here.
Cooper decided to challenge this goal. Why? I’m assuming as a shot in the dark chance. Personally, this is nowhere even close to goaltender interference. Trying to claim that Dubois’s skate nicked Vasilevskiy is woefully optimistic, especially given the fact that Sergachev’s foot completely catches Vasilevskiy’s foot. There was absolutely no way this was going to be overturned.
The ensuing power-play for Columbus didn’t generate much, but it did burn two minutes that the Lightning could’ve tried to push some kind of offense.
Luckily, a few minutes later, Tampa Bay managed to show some sign of life.
Sometimes a heavy shot beats goaltenders and that’s what happens here. It’s a great read by Nikita Kucherov to find Kevin Shattenkirk open on the opposite side of the zone where no one was covering him. Unfortunately, this tally had the dreaded sense of a “false hope” goal.
Anthony Cirelli does nothing but score big goals in big games. I don’t know what else to say. Brayden Point makes a great feed into the slot and the Lightning finally get rewarded for having a net front presence. We’re going to overtime folks.
Prays to hockey gods that this overtime won’t be like a week ago
There is only one thing that matters.
Deep down, this is what Lightning fans wanted. A chance at redemption against a team that had no real business beating them last season. Tampa Bay learned the lessons from last year and only lost one game to the scrappy Blue Jackets. Tampa Bay was the better team in the series even though they were dominated for the majority of this game. Regardless, they fought back and found a way to win a game they shouldn’t have. That’s what good teams do in the playoffs.
From a goaltender with no playoff experience becoming one of the stars of the series, to the uneven disparity in penalties called that was borderline comical, to Vasilevskiy stepping up in a playoff series like never before, the Lightning took care of business like they were expected to. Next up is most likely the winner of the Boston-Carolina series (more than likely Boston).
There are still issues that the Lightning need to address moving forward. The uneven officiating in the series will draw a lot of ire from the fan base, but all of the penalties on Tampa Bay were legitimate. The issue comes from consistency, and Columbus got away with numerous calls that Tampa Bay was getting called for throughout the series. As great of a player that Dubois is, he’s made some seriously bad hits in this series (and even before this one) and got away with all but one without a call.
Still, Tampa Bay needs to reel in the penalties. Far too many of them are due to poor stick discipline, poor positioning, and poor decision making. Clean that part of their game up or they’re going to be killed by the more offensively potent teams left in the playoffs.
The Lightning also need to figure out why they’re unable to play a full game. Their closest attempt was in Game One, and the rest of the series saw them control play most of the time, but far too often they lost control and struggled to regain it. Today, they managed to pull it off, but the competition is only going to get tougher and the teams coming up aren’t going to have the inept offense that Columbus did.
Lastly, the health of Steven Stamkos is now the thing everyone should be thinking about. Tampa Bay’s power-play had no punch behind it in this series and it was clear that Columbus was not afraid of it. Getting a healthy Stamkos back will immediately be a boost for the power-play, in addition to the team overall. The Lightning need Stamkos moving forward.