COLUMBUS – It all came down to special teams for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Monday night at Nationwide Arena.
Though Columbus had been struggling on the man advantage entering the contest, the Bolts gave the Blue Jackets two too many opportunities, as they scored on their fifth and sixth power-play chances of the game in the third. The tallies reversed momentum with little time to spare, as the Lightning were unable to tie the game with 2:38 remaining in regulation.
It was just the second time this season Tampa Bay fell when leading heading into the final period of play (17-2-0).
"It definitely wasn't on Anders [Lindback] tonight," head coach Jon Cooper said. "We had an awful start and Lindback made some big time saves to keep us in it. There were way too many penalties and it turned into a special teams' battle and their special teams were better than ours.
"We've been pretty good 5-on-5 this year, but you need your special teams to bail you out sometimes and this time it cost us."
While the first period ended exactly the same way as their last meeting, scoreless, the Bolts and Blue Jackets changed things up in the middle frame. After a Brandon Dubinsky tally was waved off because of a distinct kicking motion to start the second, Columbus tallied soon after. Ryan Johansen was credited with the marker as his shot from the top of the center point sailed untouched past Lindback stick side for a 1-0 lead at 3:46.
Tampa Bay answered back instantaneously though, with two goals 57 seconds apart.
"Our confidence and team spirit always allows us to bounce back quickly," Victor Hedman said. "We have shown that all year and it takes a full 60 minutes to play games and that is what we have continuously strived to do, play a game for the entire 60 minutes."
Tying the game at one, Alex Killorn deflected a Matt Carle shot at 5:07 on the power play. The assist gave Carle points in seven straight games (nine assists), which is currently the longest active point streak in the NHL. Hedman then helped the Lightning take a 2-1 lead off of a feed from Tyler Johnson at 6:04.
"Confidence and burying the chances you have has been the key for me," Hedman said. "It was a great play by Johnson and I was just lucky it went in."
The third period proved costly for the Bolts however. J.P. Cote headed to the penalty box for hooking and Nathan Horton responded by scoring 58 seconds into the man advantage to tie the game at two. At 16:32 Johnson went to the box and again the Blue Jackets scored. The game-winner came after Jack Johnson's long-range shot was tipped in by Mark Letestu to put Columbus ahead 3-2.
UP NEXT – With their second game in as many nights Tuesday Tampa Bay heads to New York tonight. They will then face the New York Rangers Tuesday evening, before returning home to play the New York Islanders Thursday and the San Jose Sharks Saturday. They will then play their fifth game in seven days on Sunday in Carolina versus the Hurricanes.