Four minutes in, they got a shortie.
Two more goals in the first made it Tampa Bay 3, Columbus 0. But the Lightning, rolling one of the all-time great power play units, weren't done. They were going up a man, looking to remove all doubt.
The Blue Jackets were in the den of the best team we've seen in a long time – certainly in the salary cap era – and they were folding. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was a mess, giving wind to “Playoff Bob” talk on social media as three of the first 12 shots he saw got past him.
John Tortorella's expression said it all.
The Jackets would limp with their three-goal deficit into the locker room and truth be told, it should have been worse. But whatever was said during the first intermission should be bottled and sold.
Bobrovsky started the second period by shutting down a Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos two-on-none. Just stoned two of the NHL's most lethal scorers. It might have been the save of the year for the Jackets.
Then the ice started to tilt. The Blue Jackets carried play for most of the second period, as if gradually realizing they belonged on the same sheet as this team that had tied the NHL wins record with 62 in the regular season.
Five minutes into the second, Artemi Panarin broke through for a clean look, just missing the net. It was something. Five minutes after that, Josh Anderson's active stick started a Nick Foligno breakaway. The captain took full advantage, beating Andrei Vasilevskiy stick side.
Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 1. It was just one goal, but it was also so much more than that.
Bobrovsky kept it a two-goal affair with a series of crucial saves in the second, perhaps none bigger than his stop of Stamkos, the 45-goal man, in the waning seconds of the middle period.
In the third, it was all Blue Jackets.
Bob denied Stamkos on another high danger chance a minute in. Eight minutes later defenseman David Savard played a puck off the boards, dog-walked all-star blueliner Victor Hedman, and beat Vasilevskiy high blocker to cut the deficit to one.
The Lightning were on their heels and the Blue Jackets kept swarming.
Four minutes later, Josh Anderson got the equalizer. That he did it while shorthanded is just the icing. The Blue Jackets had son'd Tampa's elite power play and the game was suddenly up for grabs.
Notice Savard, deep down a power forward, driving to the net to create space for Anderson.
Less than a minute after the Blue Jackets had tied the game, the Bolts were called for high-sticking and Columbus went back to work. Ninety seconds into the power play, Seth Jones dug the puck off of the boards, finding Zach Werenski at the point. Werenski dealt to Artemi Panarin who touch-passed a beaut to Jones wheeling back through the slot for a blast that put the Jackets up 4-3.
This game was hopeless in the first period.
Now, with 5:55 to play, the Blue Jackets held their first third period lead on the Lightning in two years. The look on Jones' face said it all.
“Tonight we found a way.”– John Tortorella
Knowing what they had, the Blue Jackets closed the game with smart play: soft clears off the boards and active sticks. As the seconds ticked down, it became real.
Blue Jackets 4, Lightning 3.
Columbus had its sixth-straight road win, dating to the regular season. The Lightning had surrendered a three-goal lead for the first time in 106 games. More importantly, they face their own hole in the series now.