Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves to lead Columbus to a 3-1 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night, lifting the Blue Jackets to a commanding 3-0 lead in their opening-round playoff series.
Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and Matt Duchene and Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied for the Blue Jackets, who have won 10 of their last 11 games, including seven of eight to close the regular season and earn the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Bobrovsky stopped 16 shots by Tampa Bay in the third period, as it tried to rally from a 2-0 deficit but couldn’t do so in front of a raucous crowd at Nationwide Arena.
Ondrej Palat scored a goal, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 saves for the Lightning, who dropped their third straight game for the first time this season and have lost five consecutive playoff games.
The Blue Jackets can close out the series against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning club in Game 4 in Columbus on Tuesday. Tampa Bay, which tied an NHL single-season record with 62 regular-season wins, will try to avoid being the first-ever Presidents’ Trophy winner to be swept in the first round.
The Lightning played without a pair of major contributors: right winger Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Victor Hedman.
The NHL’s leading scorer with 128 points, Kucherov was suspended one game on Saturday for a hard hit on Markus Nutivaara late in Friday’s 5-1 home loss.
Hedman, the reigning Norris Trophy winner as the top defenseman, suffered an undisclosed injury, did not skate with the team on Saturday and was scratched.
Columbus opened the scoring after defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski kept the puck alive in the Tampa Bay end early in the second period. Werenski fired a shot that Atkinson redirected, and the puck caromed to the opposite circle, where Duchene swept in a backhander at 1:44 for his second career playoff goal.
Columbus soon made it 2-0 after the Lightning’s Ryan Callahan went off for interfering with Werenski.
Bjorkstrand took a pass from Jones and blasted a goal at 8:25, giving the Blue Jackets their fourth marker in eight power plays against the league’s top penalty-kill unit.
Tampa Bay finally scored at 4:40 of the third period when Palat put in his own rebound to make it 2-1.
Bobrovsky stopped a pair of quality chances late in the last five minutes before Atkinson scored an empty-netter with one minute left to seal the win.
–Field Level Media