The Blue Jackets are on one right now.
They knew the Tampa Bay Lightning would be ready to go in Game 2, already down 1-0 on home ice and needing to level the series before it shifts to Columbus this weekend. Rather than sit back and await the storm (pun completely intended), the Blue Jackets started on the front foot – a stark contrast from their first period in Game 1.
Cam Atkinson and Zach Werenski scored in the opening period, and the Blue Jackets build on their lead to bag a 5-1 win at Amalie Arena. Here are three things we learned from Friday's game.
Matt Duchene has long awaited a chance to do damage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tonight, in Game 2, he made a significant impact. Duchene had four points – one goal, three assists – and the goal (which made it a 3-0 game) was the first playoff goal of his NHL career. The Blue Jackets are finally getting what they hoped out of Duchene, who has been an impact player in this series and centered a strong second line with Atkinson and Ryan Dzingel.
Artemi Panarin made a spectacular play to set up Duchene for his goal, and then in the second period, Duchene returned the favor to Panarin. In front of the net, Panarin eluded coverage and Duchene found him wide-open at the back post for a dunk...5-1, Blue Jackets.
If you're going to contain the Lightning, you have to do it as five-man units. Through two games, the Blue Jackets have fully bought in. Their neutral zone play has been strong and their sticks have been active, making sure Tampa Bay has little to no flow through the middle of the ice – and for a Lightning team that loves to generates its speed between the blue lines, it's a serious disruption to their game.
Columbus' defense did its share of work tonight, digging pucks out down low and creating clean exits out of the defensive zone. When there were breakdowns, Sergei Bobrovsky was there.
The Blue Jackets have been in this situation before, and it will be interesting to see how they handle going back home up 2-0 in the series. You know how it turned out a year ago, losing four straight to the Washington Capitals – but this time around, it feels slightly different. Columbus has a ton of confidence and a game plan, and we'll see if they can bring the same style of game to Nationwide Arena on Sunday night.