The Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t going to go winless in 2022. They put an emphatic end to their three-game losing streak as they thumped the Columbus Blue Jackets, 7-2, on Tuesday night. Powered by their special teams that included a season-high three power play goals, the Lightning led early and never looked back as they scored three times in the first, twice in the second, and twice in the third. Ondrej Palat scored twice, Brayden Point had three points including a goal, the School Bus Line of Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Pat Maroon all scored one, and Alex Killorn capped off the scoring. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 20 saves on 22 shots as he picked up the win.
Columbus might have been the perfect opponent for the Lightning, who had been scuffling a bit offensively of late. The Blue Jackets are struggling to keep the puck out of the net of late and were further hampered defensively when Zach Werenski entered COVID protocol earlier in the day and then Jake Bean was scratched with a non-COVID illness. Joonas Korpisalo was making just his second appearance in the last 35 days and looked a little rusty.
On the Lightning side, Ross Colton was a late scratch as he was placed into protocol, but Taylor Raddysh was back in line-up in his place. Cal Foote also returned to action and looked quite sharp as part of the third pairing with Mikhail Sergachev.
So, what should a team do when coming off a disheartening shutout loss and facing a team that is struggling on defense and has a starting goaltender that hasn’t seen much action in over a month? Play with pace and get pucks heading toward the net. That’s exactly what the Lightning did in the first period.
In the opening 20 minutes they had 26 shot attempts with 14 making their way to Joonas Korpisalo. Their offense was generated by pretty much everyone on the ice as Mathieu Joseph, Riley Nash, and Taylor Raddysh were the only skaters not to record at least one shot attempt in the period. Not only were they shooting the puck, they were winning the battles and forcing the action up and down the ice. They simply outskated the Blue Jackets in every zone, harassing them up and down the ice, and forcing the play.
The result from all of that work - three goals with two of them coming via the power play. Ondrej Palat opened the scoring as he joined Brayden Point on the rush into the zone on the man advantage. Point nudged a pass over to him and Palat’s shot snuck under the armpit of Korpisalo.
After Palat served a hooking penalty, which led to Columbus’ only real sustained pressure of the period, the veteran forward hopped out of the box and helped the Lightning get the puck into the zone and keep it there. Eventually the puck was worked back to Ryan McDonagh who flipped a pick towards the net. Palat was cruising through the slot and tipped the puck past Korpisalo for his second goal of the night.
The Lightning didn’t let up with the two-goal lead. Victor Hedman came in on a breakaway, shrugged off a Dean Kukan slash the way an elephant disregards a gnat before nicking a shot off the post. Hedman didn’t get the goal, but he did draw the penalty and the Lightning capitalized with the extra skater once again. This time it was the reconstituted second unit hitting paydirt. Sergachev’s shot from the point hit some bodies, Pat Maroon got it on net, and Corey Perry cleaned up the rebound as he slid it past a sprawled out Korpisalo to make it 3-0 (and 10 straight goals allowed by the Blue Jackets over their last two periods).
With a solid lead after one period and the momentum fully on their side the one thing the Lightning didn’t need to do was allow an early goal to Columbus and let them think they were back in the game. So, of course, 37 seconds into the middle frame Dean Kukan puts one into the back of the net. A face-off win leads to a blocked shot and the puck caroms over to Kukan who slides it past Vasilevskiy. If Vasy, who had lost sight of the puck, had looked right instead of left first, he probably makes the save.
The Lightning quickly jumped back to a three-goal lead thanks to Brayden Point. A minute after the Kukan goal the Lightning bring the puck into the Columbus’ zone. Point spies an open Cal Foote in the middle of the ice and hits him with the pass. Foote is a little off-balance and not able to get a shot off so he quickly bumps it back to Point who flings a quick shot past Korpisalo to make it 4-1.
The scoring wasn’t done, though, as the ice opened up a bit. Columbus took advantage of a bit of a slow line change by the Lightning. Andrew Peeke had the puck in his own zone as the Lightning went to change. He slid a long pass up to Gus Nyquist, who fielded it cleanly and barely stayed onside. Nyquist had the room to close in on Vasilevskiy and made the perfect shot over Vasy’s shoulder and under the bar to cut the score to 4-2.
Midway through the period, came the tipping point in the game. Columbus, having just cut the lead back down to two goals was pressuring the Lightning net again. The Bolts were scrambling and it looked like Vasy was down and out, but was able to make a save with his right pad.
On the play Boone Jenner took a holding penalty putting the Lightning back on the power play. Tampa Bay didn’t score (despite two booming one-timers from Steven Stamkos), but Scott Harrington did fire the puck over the glass right after the power play expired and Columbus stayed shorthanded. Pat Maroon found a loose puck in the crease just off the face-off and poked it in to make it 5-2. Basically it was a two-goal swing that took the wind out of the Blue Jackets comeback sails.
With a comfortable lead heading into the third period, the Lightning weren’t necessarily looking for more goals, but a solid play by a defender led the sixth goal of the night. It looked like the Blue Jackets were going to be first to a loose puck in their zone and break out easily but Jan Rutta stepped up and beat them to the puck. He fed it to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and the veteran’s shot found space under Korpisalo’s arm and went in.
What they were looking for was a strong, clean period defensively. That ended up being a bit of a mixed bag as there were a few bad line changes mixed with turnovers that led to chances for the Blue Jackets. Good thing for them that Vasilevskiy is their goaltender. When there was a mistake the Lightning netminder bailed them out, most obviously when Jack Roslovic was stoned on a breakaway.
Despite the occasional breakdown, overall they were still playing really well. Anthony Cirelli created a turnover with a strong forecheck, the Columbus defense overcommitted on his side and the puck came out to Alex Killorn who easily put it past Korpisalo who had zero chance of making the save.
The two teams skated out the rest of the game without much happening other than Tampa Bay killing off another penalty late in the game to round out a pretty good special teams night. With the victory the Lightning head back to Tampa where they’ll take on the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
Ondrej Palat (Brayden Point, Victor Hedman) Power Play 1-0 Lightning
Ondrej Palat (Ryan McDonagh, Brayden Point) 2-0 Lightning
Ondrej simply can't be stopped. pic.twitter.com/DBO4sKtsR8— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) January 5, 2022
Corey Perry (Pat Maroon, Mikhail Sergachev) Power Play 3-0 Lightning
Dean Kukan (Gus Nyquist, Adam Boqvist) 3-1 Lightning
Brayden Point (Cal Foote, Ondrej Palat) 4-1 Lightning
Gus Nyquist (Andrew Peeke, Valdislav Gavrikov) 4-2 Lightning
Pat Maroon (Corey Perry, Anthony Cirelli) Power Play 5-2 Lightning
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Jan Rutta) 6-2 Lightning
Alex Killorn (Anthony Cirelli, Steven Stamkos) 7-2 Lightning