The Columbus Blue Jackets entered the Stanley Cup Playoffs as underdogs versus the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first-round matchup. With a 2-0 lead coming back home, the Jackets are in a familiar position, looking to take a commanding 3-0 lead in a postseason series for the first time.
Ever since going down 3-0 in the first period of Game 1, the Blue Jackets have pretty much dominated the last five periods against the Lightning, outscoring Tampa Bay 9-1 during that span.
The Jackets have put together two straight full-team efforts to gather the pair of wins. They’ve gotten nine goals from nine different players, the defense has been strong keeping the Lightning away from good scoring areas, and Sergei Bobrovsky has been stopping pretty much everything sent his way.
Throughout Game 2, there were several instances where Lightning players were visibly frustrated. The boards near their bench took several whacks from Tampa Bay skaters as they left the ice empty handed. More costly, however, was the boarding penalty Nikita Kucherov took with less than five minutes left. Following a hearing on Saturday morning, the hit was deemed suspension-worthy, banning the NHL’s leading point getter for Game 3 in Columbus.
After the Game 2 loss, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper called their situation a “five alarm fire.” And that was before the suspension to Kucherov was handed down.
With this year’s best offensive player off the ice, momentum in the series squarely on their side, and now back at home, the stage is set for the CBJ to extend their lead tonight.
It’s impossible to overlook, however, that the Jackets were in a similar position a year ago.
Back at home after two wins in Washington D.C., the Jackets lost four straight to lose in six games to the Capitals last season.
Players and coaches have been quick to dismiss that notion, stating that every series is different. John Tortorella simply said that his team played better in Game 2 than they did in Game 1, and that they’ll need to show that same improvement in Game 3 if they’re going to have success.
While every series is indeed different, one lesson the Jackets learned last year was how momentum in the series can change on a dime. Shorthanded, with their backs just about up against the wall, the Lightning can change the course of this series quickly.
If Tampa Bay wins tonight, getting their star forward back for Game 4 on Tuesday, the entire series could be headed a whole new direction. For this reason, Game 3 tonight is just as important for the CBJ to keep their foot on the gas pedal.
With puck drop scheduled for shortly after 7:00 PM ET, Nationwide Arena is going to be rocking. Pick your favorite cliche and either buckle up or get your popcorn ready, because tonight’s contest is must-see TV for all.