The @BlueJacketsNHL became the 27th team in NHL history to overcome a deficit of at least three goals and win a playoff game in regulation.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 11, 2019
Winnipeg (Game 3 of R2) was the only team to accomplish the feat in the 2018 postseason. #NHLStats #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/IyW8ukoJpg
Eyes were on downtown Tampa Wednesday evening. At Amalie Arena, the winningest hockey team since the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings prepared to erase the memory of a sterling regular season (62 wins, 128 points) and begin a second season that could go on for two-and-a-half more months.
A mile away from Amalie, thousands streamed into downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park to catch a free show from Nashville rock and roll outfit Cage The Elephant (some members of the band wearing Predators jerseys, naturally). While some fans eventually walked down the Tampa Riverwalk to cheer the Tampa Bay Lightning on in person, others stayed at The Curt to watch the Bolts squander a three-goal, first period lead en route to losing their series opener, 4-3, against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Things got testy early in the first period when Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi dropped gloves with Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky, and while the Bolts ended up on a penalty kill when the scrum was sorted, Amalie got a chance to blow off even more steam as Lightning center Alex Killorn pickpocketed Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones to score a shorthanded goal that put the Lightning up 1-0 just four minutes into the playoffs. Columbus — and its leaky goalie Sergei Bobrovsky — played scared for the remainder of the game and gave up goals to Bolts rookie Anthony Cirelli and center Yanni Gourde as time ran out on the first frame of the contest.
Two different teams took the ice in the second period, however, and the Blue Jackets put 11 shots on goal, including one off a Ryan McDonagh turnover that became Columbus’ first goal of the game. A rejuvenated Bobrovsky stopped all 11 Tampa Bay shots in the frame which saw the Lightning fail to capitalize on several great chances to add to their lead. Lightning netminder Vasilevskiy largely bailed his team out in the frame, but the good luck ran out in a third period that saw the Bolts get outshot 9-5 and start blow that three-goal lead after Columbus defenseman David Savard scored eight minutes into the frame to cut the lead to 3-2.
man down? no matter. pic.twitter.com/oNxGXdOxHy— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) April 11, 2019
The Lightning had a chance to add a goal to the lead during a four-minute power play, but Columbus’ Josh Anderson found a shorthanded goal of his own to even the score at 3-3 with 7:44 left in the game.
The reversal of fortune and effort — with the Bolts looking skittish for the last 40 minutes of the game — all came to a head less than two minutes later when Columbus’ Seth Jones completed the Blue Jackets comeback by scoring a power play goal. It was the first time this Lightning team lost a game after being ahead by three goals.
It goes without saying, but the Bolts’ regular season dominance means very little when the puck drops for the playoffs, Since the 2004-05 lockout, just two of the last 13 teams to hoist the President’s Trophy (awarded to the squad with the most regular season wins) have gone on lift the Stanley Cup.
The Cup was in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night and onstage at Curtis Hixon. On Thursday, the most coveted trophy in sports with make its rounds around our neighborhood, but the Bolts, now down 0-1 in their quest for the Cup, will need a more sustained effort if it wants to make history this summer.
Game two is on Friday, April 12 at Amalie Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.