Blue Jackets Buckle Down To Win Series Opener, 3-1, In Tampa Bay Against the Lightning

By Rob Mixer on March 30, 2021 at 9:33 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Mikko Lehtonen (43) and Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Barclay Goodrow (19) skate after the puck during the first period at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports

Just as you expected, the Columbus Blue Jackets shook off two dismal losses in Detroit to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1, at Amalie Arena on Tuesday night.

Yes, as you knew would happen all along.

After withstanding a Tampa Bay push in the third period, the Blue Jackets got a break with Curtis McElhinney on the bench for an extra attacker. Cam Atkinson knocked a pass out of midair, Nick Foligno hunted the puck down, and Atkinson buried into an empty net to ice the game late in regulation.

Elvis Merzlikins...take a bow. What a performance. He made 38 saves to backstop a big win for Columbus, snapping a four-game skid and sending Tampa Bay to its third straight loss. He was outstanding in net.

The Blue Jackets took a while to get warm to this game, but once they did, it was in the (wait for it) second period.

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That's right: the second period, also known as Columbus' house of horrors this season. They were excellent in the middle frame tonight, and as a result, took a 2-0 lead into the third period against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

After a stretch of play that largely tipped in their favor, the Blue Jackets broke the ice 10:49 into the second period. Zach Werenski found the puck at the point, walked the line and dipped to the middle point before zipping a quick wrist shot through traffic. Oliver Bjorkstrand was in the high slot, and redirected the puck to the long side on old friend Curtis McElhinney to make it 1-0, Columbus.

Much to everyone's surprise, the Blue Jackets weren't about to go quietly in the second period. Plot twist!

Alexandre Texier burst through the neutral zone and dangled inside on Lightning defenseman Andreas Borgman, finding open ice to make a play. His pass to David Savard was on the money, and the big defenseman snapped a quick shot low to the blocker side on McElhinney, making it a 2-0 lead for the Blue Jackets late in the period. The goal was Savard's first since Game 1 against the Lightning on Apr. 10, 2019, and first regular-season goal since Mar. 30, 2019 in Nashville. For those doing the math at home, that's two years to the day. It was a drought.

Injury Update

There are no injuries for the Blue Jackets.

Next Up

The Blue Jackets and Lightning will wrap up their two-game series on Thursday night at Amalie Arena. Puck drop is once again set for 7 p.m.

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