Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets were in trouble.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had beaten him for three goals on 12 first period shots in Game 1 and Bobrovsky was sure looking like “Playoff Bob,” the guy who entered Wednesday night's game 5–12 in the postseason, haven given up at least three goals in all but one of those starts.
He didn't survive his last start in Tampa, an ugly loss that saw him surrender four goals before getting the hook. The time before that, he allowed eight in a home loss to the Bolts at Nationwide Arena.
But, in the bet of the night, John Totorella stuck with him. Bobrovsky responded, stopping 14-straight over the final two periods, 40 of the best minutes he's had on the ice this season.
“We don't have a chance unless he plays the way he played the last 40,” Tortorella said after Bobrovsky made highlight save after highlight save to help his team to a 4-3 comeback.
Just seconds into the middle period, with the Lightning's best-in-decades power play on the ice, Bobrovsky faced Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, a pair of 40-goal scorers, two-on-none. A goal here makes it 4-0, but Bobrovsky shout that thought down.
— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) April 11, 2019
Not long after, he robbed Stamkos again:
The amount of body Bobrovsky gets in front of this shot is astounding. He doesn't just stretch and get lucky - he pushes his centre over far enough that he can actually reach the puck with his outstretched arm. pic.twitter.com/M8Z9J4xGeU
— InGoal Magazine (@InGoalMedia) April 11, 2019
Then, he did this…
My boss @KevinisInGoal talks about Bobrovsky's game having a lot of "open and shut" in it, and I think this clip illustrates that well. He moves to his right, getting his pad out and down, but leaving the 5-hole open before bringing the left pad in and shutting it just in time. pic.twitter.com/FT6nSzknTp
— Paul Campbell (@WayToGoPaul) April 11, 2019
And then this…
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) April 11, 2019
You get the point.
With just over 10 minutes remaining, and the Blue Jackets down a goal, they found themselves needing to kill off a four-minute penalty. Bobrovsky simply shut down that elite Tampa Bay power play to give his team a shot to win the game.
Bobrovsky's postseason struggles have been well-documented, and through 20 minutes, the game played out as another struggle on the biggest stage for him. But the two-time Vezina winner hung in there and dominated his net when his team needed it most.
Thanks to his play, the Blue Jackets are in position to go up 2–0 on a team penciled into the Stanley Cup Finals.