The Lightning Look Listless In Falling Into 0-2 Hole

TAMPA – A unfamiliar sound resonated from the Amalie Arena crowd multiple times Friday night.

Indeed, the customary 19,092 has had little reason to boo the guys wearing the bolts on their jerseys in recent seasons.

But the boo birds were frequent during a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Columbus in Game 2, a setback that put the Lightning in a size-two hole in their opening round playoff series.

“The fans were in the same spot we were,” said coach Jon Cooper. “Everybody is frustrated.”

For the second consecutive game Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point were held off the scoresheet.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s happening in Games 1 and 2 in April of the playoffs,” said Cooper. “But last time I looked Kuch didn’t have a point in all 82 games and neither did Stammer. So, this happens. It’s just unfortunate right now.”

For the second consecutive game the Lightning failed to score on the man advantage and are 0-for-5 through two games (with a shorthanded goal against in Game 1) after converting a league-best 28.2 percent of their powerplays in the regular season.

“It’s just not going our way right now,” said Steven Stamkos. “It’s not from lack of effort. Guys are working hard. We’re just not working smart enough. We are going to go into a difficult building, find a way to win a game and go from there.”

The Blue Jackets found many ways to win Game 2. They threw a blanket over the Tampa Bay attack, especially in the second period when the Lightning had five shots on goal with only one over the final 14 minutes.

When Columbus wasn’t foiling the Lightning with 16 blocked shots and getting sticks on attempted passes, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was able to see most everything thrown his way.

“He’s going to stop everything he can see,” said Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski, who had a Gordie Howe hat trick with powerplay goal at 11:44 of the opening period to give his team a 2-0 lead, fought Point a few minutes later and assisted on Matt Duchene’s second-period goal. “Everybody was working hard, everybody was pulling their weight and when that happens it’s a ton of fun to go out there because you know the guy next to you is going to do his job.”

Since taking a 3-0 lead after one period in Game 1, the Lightning have been outscored 9-1 and have often looked nothing like the team that recorded 128 points in the regular season. That’s what is so stunning about this series so far.

“It’s adversity and teams face this all the time,” said Cooper. “This is a five-alarm fire, but it’s adversity and sometimes that’s good because you have to go through stuff like this. We’ll see how we respond.”

Duchene had a goal and three assists for the Blue Jackets, who went 2-for-4 on the powerplay and are 3-for-5 in the series. Duchene, whose powerplay goal at 1:28 of the second period gave Columbus a 3-0 advantage, did not have a goal in his previous nine career playoff games.

Tampa Bay’s lone goal was by Mikhail Sergachev, whose wrister from above the left circle went off the right skate of Blue Jackets’ defenseman Markus Nutivaara, who was stationed at the right post.

The goal came exactly five minutes into the third period and made the score 3-1. There was life in the building and plenty of time to go.

Anticipation of a comeback could be sensed throughout the arena when, 51 seconds later, Nick Foligno tripped Tyler Johnson to give the Lightning a powerplay opportunity.

Tampa Bay did not have any prime scoring chances with the man advantage and a couple of minutes after the penalty kill Columbus restored its three-goal lead.

Boone Jenner’s effort at the Lightning blue line to keep the puck in the zone paid off as he found Riley Nash cruising down the middle. Nash wristed his first-career playoff goal high to Andrei Vasilevskiy’s glove side at 9:06 and sent many fans scurrying for the exits.

“We’re just trying to go about our business the best way we think we need to in this series,” said Columbus coach John Tortorella. “I think we played better than we did in Game 1 and we are going to have to play better in Game 3 than we did in Game 2.”

The Lightning, who have allowed at least four goals in four straight home games, have no choice but to play better in Game 3 lest they be pushed to the brink.

Game 3 is Sunday night (7:00) in Columbus.

SHARE
Tom Layberger has been a sports writer, reporter and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Comcast, NBC and The Topps Company. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and globalsportmatters.com. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a USF grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.