Another night, another first for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In their 17 previous seasons of NHL hockey, the Jackets had never won so much as three games in a playoff series, let alone a series.
Sunday night at an electric Nationwide Arena, Columbus got its first ever third win of a playoff series. And they're one game away from sweeping a juggernaut thanks to a gutty, 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning..
The Blue Jackets got timely second period goals from Matt Duchene and Oliver Bjorkstrand, and a spectacular performance from goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who turned aside 30 shots in what may have been his latest best playoff performance of his career.
The Blue Jackets got off to a good start, outshooting the Lightning, 12-3 in the first period, and taking a 7-3 edge in scoring chances – but a 0-0 score to the break.
1:44 into the second, legend in the making Matt Duchene pounced on the rebound to a Cam Atkinson blast, beating Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy upstairs with a backhand.
Seven minutes later, Oliver Bjorkstrand showed off his new weapon, a laser of a snap shot, to put the Blue Jackets up 2-0.
The faithful were on their feet and making more noise than Nationwide Arena's likely ever heard.
Tampa Bay found its groove in the third, cutting Columbus' lead in half when Ondrej Palat jumped on a Bobrovsky rebound just over four minutes into the final period. Sensing an opportunity, the Lightning kept swarming, sending 17 shots Bob's way in the third, but the two-time Vezina winner was up to the task, turning all but the Palat goal away.
Whether blocking shots or gently clearing the puck along the boards, the Blue Jackets did all they could to keep Tampa Bay out of the net again, and finally, with one minute to play, Artemi Panarin came up with a loose puck and fed it to Cam Atkinson for the empty-netter and the final score of 3-1.
With the series firmly in hand, the Blue Jackets will look to sweep the Lightning, but it's a dangerous time to get overconfident.
Defenseman Markus Nutivaara is out with an upper-body injury. Both Adam McQuaid and Ryan Murray skated in the Blue Jackets' morning skate Tuesday, but the status of either's return is unknown.
The Blue Jackets will go for the most improbable of sweeps Tuesday night, when they welcome the Lightning back to Nationwide Arena for Game 4. The puck drops at 7 p.m.