After imposing their will on the Lightning in the final 40 minutes of Wednesday’s Game 1 victory, there were two possible outcomes for the CBJ heading into Game 2. Either Tampa was going to punch right back, or the juggernaut was going to be staggered.
Throughout the course of Friday’s contest, it was apparent that option #2 was what happened: players were visibly frustrated, and that attitude was contagious as their fans grew increasingly restless during the course of the game.
The Jackets got the scoring going early after Cam Atkinson snuck a puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy off a feed from Matt Duchene to make it 1-0 CBJ at the 5:15 mark of the first period.
They added another one later in the first period, just three seconds into a power play, when Zach Werenski sent a wrister past Vasilevskiy off a Duchene faceoff win.
Werenski wasn’t done making an impact on the game there.
Towards the end of the first period, he dropped the gloves against Tampa Bay Center Brayden Point for the first fight of his National Hockey League career. Less than 90 seconds into the second period, he registered an assist on a Matt Duchene power-play goal, giving him a famed “Gordie Howe Hat Trick.” The goal, which made it 3-0 Jackets, was Duchene’s first playoff goal of his career.
After the game, CBJ Head Coach John Tortorella commented on the impact Werenski’s fight had on the team, saying:
It’s terrific…It’s just so good for our bench…I think that’s so good for him, and so good for the camaraderie of our team. So that was really good.
The three-goal lead stood until the third period, when the Lightning started to make some noise.
At the five-minute mark of the third, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was credited with a goal when a puck bounced off Markus Nutivaara’s skate and across the line to make it 3-1 CBJ.
The Blue Jackets’ penalty kill stepped up just a minute or two later after the CBJ took a penalty for too many men on the ice. Tortorella summed it up this way after the game:
When they score their goal, and then I think it’s just a couple minutes later, they get a power play, that’s a huge kill for us…Let’s say they score a goal there, who knows where it goes. It’s a good test for us, I’ll tell you right now, they go 3-2 with some minutes left, it would have been a good test for us, but we found a way to get it done.
Riley Nash added a huge goal following a terrific play on the boards by Boone Jenner 9:06 into the third period.
With a 4-1 lead at that point, Matt Duchene described the Nash goal to reporters after the game, saying:
Nasher’s goal, for me, was the nail in the coffin.
To top it all off, Duchene found a wide-open Artemi Panarin with 7:45 remaining to make it 5-1 CBJ. The assist was Duchene’s third of the evening.
As the final horn blew, the scoreboard read CBJ 5, Tampa Bay 1.
If there’s anything that gives Jackets fans a bit of an uneasy feeling up 2-0 with the series heading back to Columbus, it’s the fact that this is the same situation the club was in last year against the Washington Capitals.
Cam Atkinson talked about that after the game, saying:
I think we should still have a sour taste in our mouth from last year. It’s a series for a reason. They’re obviously the best team in the league, they showed it this whole year, and we just can’t take our foot off the gas pedal.
Tortorella, on the other hand, wasn’t so focused on comparing the two scenarios, as he said in his postgame press conference:
I’m fortunate we’ve done it three years in a row getting in, playing some games, going through some situations, some really good stuff, some bad stuff, some failures, and we’re getting another opportunity here. It’s not like we’re looking to go into the archives here and ‘what happened here during that series that we can use here.’ We’re just trying to go out and play each and every game.
The Columbus Blue Jackets will head back to Nationwide Arena to take on the Lightning for Game 3 of their first-round series on Sunday. With a chance to go up 3-0 against the best regular-season team in the league, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the CBJ can stick to their game that’s been so effective over the last couple weeks.
With puck drop scheduled for shortly after 7:00 PM ET back in Columbus on Sunday, expect an electric atmosphere as the Jackets attempt to push Tampa Bay to the brink of elimination in this best-of-seven series.