Strong Starts Fades Away As Mistakes Doom the Blue Jackets in Home Loss to Tampa Bay

By Rob Mixer on February 18, 2019 at 10:11 pm
Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores a goal against Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo during a game at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

No matter how good, you have to be better.

That's what's required (and then some) to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. And through 12-ish minutes of the first period, it looked as though the Blue Jackets were ready to make that happen.

But it was a slow wilt after a strong start – and the Lightning made it look easy even without their A-game tonight at Nationwide Arena, a 5-1 win for the visitors. They had but 14 shots through two periods to the Blue Jackets' 29, but had goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy's outstanding 39-save performance to fall back on. And another ho-hum multi-goal outing from presumptive league MVP Nikita Kucherov, who scored twice in the first period.

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The Blue Jackets were ready to play in the first period, there's no doubt about that. But once they fell behind 3-0, it was lights out. Brayden Point scored twice in the first 46 seconds of the third period to put it away.

Columbus was on the front foot right from the opening puck drop, firing from all angles on Vasilevskiy but failing to make a dent in the opening period despite a heavy territorial advantage. And at the other end, the Blue Jackets made a pair of mistakes that cost them.

On what became a 4-on-2 rush, Pierre-Luc Dubois tried to split the Lightning defense and instead turned the puck over, and seconds later, Kucherov was backhanding his first goal over a sprawling Joonas Korpisalo. Later in the period, Nick Foligno swung a no-look backhand pass into space and it was picked off, resulting in another Kucherov goal.

And while Korpisalo didn't have much work through two periods, he was sharp when he needed to be – just not nearly as impenetrable as Vasilevskiy. Lukas Sedlak broke the shutout bid on the Blue Jackets' 39th shot, a backhand finish that came with 1:52 left in regulation.

Injury Update

Brandon Dubinsky remains on injured reserve, and Markus Hannikainen missed another game due to illness. Ryan Murray left this game in the first period with an upper body injury and did not return.

Next Up

It's a quick turnaround for the Blue Jackets, who hop on a flight and head to Montreal, where they'll face the Canadiens on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.

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