The player. The team. The coach. Needs to have a short-term memory.
Head Coach John Tortorella and his team faced a 3-0 deficit after 20 minutes and it looked like the Columbus Blue Jackets were simply outmatched. The quote above were his words after his team came back, but the actions spoke for themselves.
Sergei Bobrovsky & Co. had a disastrous start, with the Lightning scoring on 3 of their first 12 shots.
At the 4:12 mark, it was a Seth Jones turnover while on the power play that led to a breakaway goal for Alex Killorn. At the 11:01 mark, Bob didn’t help his cause, failing to corral a shot from Alex Cernak and leaving a juicy rebound for Anthony Cirelli to put into the back of the net. The Bolts had a crescendo of momentum in the first period that was finalized with Yanni Gourde putting the home team up 3-0 at the 17:50 mark after a dominant shift in the offensive zone.
Despite an awful first 20 minutes of action, Bobrovsky was perfect the rest of the way.
Defenseman David Savard had this to say:
I think…Bob kept us in the game with, with some huge saves early in the second…We got going from there.
Goalies tend to be hot or cold in a game, but Bobrovsky literally heated up instantaneously, as he he were leftovers in the microwave on power-level ten.
Treating Tampa Bay’s early goals as if they were last night’s leftovers worked out for the CBJ. Just before the midway mark of the hockey game, it was Nick Foligno who capitalized on a breakaway of his own to make it a 3-1 deficit.
We started…to calm down and play our own game in the second and third and, stuck to it and it worked out.
Josh Anderson, who assisted on the aforementioned goal, told that to the press after the improbable comeback, then added:
I think it all started with Fliggy’s goal…After that we just carried on. We started playing our own game.
Bob made more spectacular saves at the end of the second period, as the Jackets suddenly were in the mix again heading into the final period.
Now, we should all be well-aware that a big upset on the road usually needs to have a breakdown from the home team at some point. That “breakdown” occurred when David Savard gained control of the puck in the neutral zone, entered the offensive zone, then deked Victor Hedman before beating Andrei Vasilevskiy in the top-right corner.
At this point, you could instantly feel the tension inside the building.
With just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Brandon Dubinsky was assessed a double minor for high sticking. Things weren’t looking good for the Jackets, as they had to face the number-one power-play unit in the National Hockey League.
Not shaken by the adversity, the Jackets killed off the first half of the penalty before Josh Anderson used a partial screen from David Savard to tie up the game 3-3.
The home crowd was stunned after Tampa not only failed to score on the man advantage, but gave up a shorthanded goal.
Things got worse for the Lightning and better for the Jackets.
Seth Jones scored a power-play goal of his own to give Columbus their first lead of the night with 5:55 remaining in regulation. The goal was assisted by Artemi Panarin and Zach Werenski.
Jones described the play:
Bread put a rocket right on my tape. I really didn’t have to do much.
A clutch power-play goal in Game 1. Sound familiar? Because it should. In Game 1 against the Capitals last year, Jones scored a power-play goal with less than five minutes remaining to tie the score before Panarin buried a game winner in overtime.
Jones also elaborated on the turnaround his team had after a rough 1st period:
We just stuck with it…whether we came back or not…We have to play a certain way…We understand we can’t afford to go down and not play an entire period like we did tonight.
Foligno, who got the scoring started for his team, mentioned how important the mindset of the club is as they move forward in the series:
We have the ability and…belief in here that we can be a good team and we just have to continue that, that mindset.
Tampa Bay’s top-three scorers on the season (Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Bayden Point) were held pointless, and the Jackets were able to take advantage with a victory in the first game of the best-of-seven series.
While Columbus was the last team to make the playoffs, they’ve shown they’re not afraid of the moment when they’re on the road in recent history. They won two of three games on the road against the Capitals a year ago in the first round and just beat the most dominant regular-season team in the last 20 years in their building last night.
Whether it’s the defense, the goaltending, the mindset, the sticktoitiveness, or the belief, the CBJ have found themselves with home-ice advantage against the team the oddsmakers favor to win the Stanley Cup.
Game 1: Columbus Wins 4-3 (in case you forgot).
Now try to relax and take a deep breath before Game 2.