One shift off of the face-off in overtime and that is all it took.
The Tampa Bay Lightning needed that extra point that Victor Hedman gave them when Brayden Point’s connection with Hedman in front of the goal spelled a 4-3 Lightning win over the stubborn Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday evening.
It was an uphill battle all night for Tampa Bay to be able to get to 66 points to tie the Florida Panthers and close to within two points of the Central Division leading Carolina Hurricanes.
Tampa Bay finished the season at 5-3-0 vs. Columbus and 3-1-0 against the Blue Jackets in Amalie Arena.
Point had a goal and two assists and Ondrej Palat collected three helpers as the Lightning outshot Columbus, 34-22.
The momentum shifted back in favor of the Lightning early in the third period when Tampa Bay went on it’s third power play of the evening.
Tampa Bay’s Alex Barre-Boulet scored his first NHL goal when he took a pass from Palat off the face-off and he caught Korpisalo leaning left as he shoved the puck into the net. Palat put the puck square on Barre-Boulet’s blade for his third assist of the evening which tied the game at 3-3.
“It was just a matter of time and I think he helped that power play get momentum and we needed every one of them tonight,” said Lightning coach John Cooper.
After Palat scored his 14th goal of the season to give the Lightning a 1-0 advantage, Columbus brought the fight in mounting the challenge that would last the rest of the evening.
The Blue Jackets solved Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy with a pair of goals some 2:13 apart as Mikhail Grigorenko scored his third goal of the season which was followed by Eric Robinson’s sixth offering.
Off the face-off in the Lightning zone, Mikko Lehtonen fired a shot at Vasilevskiy as it went wide and Vladislav Gavrikov found the puck behind the goal line. He placed it back in the middle to Grigorenkov, who tied the game at 1-1 at 17:16.
Eric Robinson got in on the act behind the goal line as he found the puck and then hooked the puck around Vasilevskiy’s right side to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead at 19:29. Robinson outfought Yanni Gourde for the puck for the scoop as the Blue Jackets, who had been out played in the first, took the lead at the break.
Matthieu Joseph then kept the game from getting away from the Lightning in the second period.
Tampa Bay came out with urgency to start the second period as Point ran down the puck in the Blue Jackets’ zone. He skated toward the net and then deposited on the left crease to the flying Mathieu Joseph, who tapped it in to tie the game at 2-2 at 6:09. Palat picked up the secondary assist on the score.
The aggression of the Lightning was a major story in the second as they had nine shots on goal before Columbus got it’s first one at 11:07.
“The second period was really good,” noted Cooper. “It was tough because so many pucks were bouncing around the crease and we weren’t getting a stick on them.”