Shining (1st) Star: A Look Back At Korpi’s Dazzling Night

By Ed Francis on August 12, 2020 at 1:05 pm
Just another Korpisalo save; one of 85 made in Game 1.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

If you had a crystal ball and discovered in advance of Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that Joonas Korpisalo would be the first star of the game, surely you would have thought great things.

“Korpisalo must have been amazing!” you would excitedly conclude.

“Columbus goes up 1-0 in the series!” you would presume, as you high-five elbow-bump your nearest Blue Jackets fan.

But only one of those things would end as true, as we now know following Tuesday’s quintuple overtime marathon. Tampa Bay defeated Columbus 3-2 in the 151st minute of the 4th longest game in NHL history, and Korpisalo picked up the least deserved loss in NHL history.

“That was only one game and looking forward to the next one," said Korpisalo after the game. As stunning as the performance was, it was that mentality following the game that may have the most long-lasting impact on the team.

“That was only one game and looking forward to the next one."– Joonas Korpisalo

Tampa’s first goal - on their 9th of 88 shots on the evening - took a ricochet off the leg of Lightning forward Brayden Point. Between the legs of Korpisalo, yes, but on a deflection that would require a goalie to be lucky more than good.

The second goal was even more frustrating. In the opening minute of the third period, and with Columbus up 2-1, Korpisalo thought he had the puck covered.

He didn’t, though, and as momentum slid him ever-so-slightly into the crease, the puck slid ever-so-gently off his leg and into the net to tie the game at 2. 

Then, for the next 110 minutes and ten seconds of hockey - and the next 60 Lightning shots - Joonas was a wall. He stopped a dozen shots in the first overtime, including a point-blank stop on Alex Killorn midway through the period. In the second overtime, Tampa Bay was able to muster up only six shots, but came up large on a shot through traffic by Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak.

In overtimes three and four, Korpisalo added 28 more saves on his way to the record-shattering 85 save night. The previous record of 73 was surpassed just two minutes in the fourth overtime, on a shot by Mitchell Stevens that Korpisalo was able to cover up.

The night finally came to a heart-breaking end just past the midway point of the fifth overtime. Less than a minute after the Lightning finished a power play that featured a questionable non-call that would have sent Tampa Bay to the box, Brayden Point scored following a Nikita Kucherov deflection off the face of Vladislav Gavrikov, and the Lightning took Game 1 by the narrowest of margins.

“I just went out there to do me, put my best out there and just try to contribute with the team out there,” said Korpisalo.

He did just that, and got far less than he deserved for it. He knows that, his coach knows it, and most of all, his teammates certainly know it. Here's to hoping the favor is returned to him in the form of having goals to work with for Thursday's Game 2.