Through their first 14 games at Amalie Arena, the Tampa Bay Lightning had been near unbeatable at home, going 11-2-1 entering Saturday’s matchup versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Tampa Bay had won five in a row at home and nine of its last 10.
Playing the last-place team in the Metropolitan Division, however, the Lightning couldn’t shift out of neutral.
Columbus scored two goals in the first period and capped an impressive performance with a third period tally to win 3-1 in front of 17,467 at Amalie Arena.
Tampa Bay (18-7-3, 39 points) outshot the Blue Jackets 34-20 and had a number of prime scoring opportunities but struggled to convert, chances that had been going into the net all season for the Lightning not there Saturday night for the National Hockey League’s top scoring team.
“There are no easy games in this league,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “They competed. They played hard. We competed as well, we just didn’t do the proper things and execute the right things in order to succeed tonight.”
Columbus (9-15-2 20 points) has now won three in a row after losing the previous six.
“They got the lead and shut it down,” Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. “They played a good road game.”
The Lightning lose for just the second time in seven games.
Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (8-8-1) made 33 saves to earn the victory and nearly had the shutout until Ondrej Palat scored for the Lightning with 1:13 to go.
Columbus scored the game’s first goal just 2:37 into the first period, Boone Jenner with an innocuous-looking wrist shot from right beyond the left circle that may have deflected off Radko Gudas and snuck by Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.
David Savard put the Blue Jackets up 2-0 in the first. On Columbus’ first power play of the game, Savard sent a shot toward net with traffic in front screening Bishop, the puck trickling into goal at the near post at 12:48 of the opening period.
“I couldn’t even tell you how the second one went in,” Cooper said. “I don’t even know if that’s a scoring chance. It had to go through three bodies to get to the net. That doesn’t go in the net, it drops in the net.”
The Lightning trailed 2-0 after the first, only the third time all year they’ve been behind following the opening period.
Tampa Bay had 12 shots in the second period to Columbus’ four. Bobrovsky, however, was up to the task for all 12.
“If I had a fault with our game today, it was we didn’t have enough passion at the net, and maybe that cost us in the end because we let Bobrovsky see too many pucks,” Cooper said. “You can get mid 30s on shots all you want. If you’re not going to be in front for a lot of them, it makes it harder.”
The Lightning remain winless this season when trailing after two periods, falling to 0-7-0.
“The first and second, I thought we had pretty good two periods,” Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. “I know we’re coming out 2-0 [behind] after it, but I thought we, especially in the second, created a lot of chances, a lot of opportunities. I don’t think we made enough traffic in front of (Bobrovsky). He’s a good goalie. If he sees the puck, he’s going to stop it.
Columbus ended any doubt about the game’s outcome with goal No. 3 at 4:51 of the third period. Following a failed Lightning power play, Columbus’ Jack Skille exited the box and started a two-on-one with Michael Chaput. Skille fired a cross-crease pass for Chaput on the back post, but the puck was deflected by Bolts forward Nikita Kucherov into his own goal before reaching Chaput. Skille was credited with the score, his fourth of the season.
“The third period was definitely disappointing,” Callahan said. “We’ve got to come out and be desperate being down 2-0 at home and we didn’t have that.”
Ben Bishop (16-4-2) had a five-game winning streak entering the Columbus contest but suffered his fourth loss of the season.
“It was just one of those nights,” Bishop said. “Bounces didn’t go our way. They get a couple goals off our players and pucks are bouncing over our sticks. Every now and then, those are going to happen. We just can’t let it creep into our game.”
Palat kept the Lightning from being shut out for the first time this season, scoring with 1:13 remaining and Bishop out of net. Kucherov fed Palat in the slot, and Palat found daylight around Bobrovsky for his eighth goal of the year.
Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin picked up assists on the Bolts’ only goal.
Drouin is now in double digits for helpers this season with 10.
Tampa Bay will try to get back in the win column when they play game No. 3 on their current four-game homestand Tuesday, December 6, against the Washington Capitals. The Lightning face the Carolina Hurricanes two days later before beginning a five-game set on the road.