3 Keys: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets, Game 4 of Eastern First Round


No. 2 Lightning vs. No. 7 Blue Jackets

3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, SN1, TVAS, FS-O, SUN

Tampa Bay leads best-of-7 series, 2-1

The Columbus Blue Jackets will look to rebound against the Tampa Bay Lightning again and tie the Eastern Conference First Round series for a second time in Game 4 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Monday.

Tampa Bay took its second lead of the best-of-7 series with a 3-2 win in Toronto, the East hub city, on Saturday.

Columbus played an additional 122:01, the equivalent of two regulation games, while going to overtime three times in its past six games, including 90:27 in a 3-2, five-overtime, Game 1 loss to Tampa Bay, the fourth-longest game in NHL history, on Tuesday. 

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said they may have “hit a wall” during Game 3 and canceled practice Sunday.

“We didn’t play our best hockey,” Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones said Sunday. “But I don’t really want to talk about last game, I want to talk about how it can be better moving forward and how we can win a hockey game [Monday]. It’s the most important game of the season and we want to be the best we can be.”

Teams that win Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead are 215-106 (67 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL series.

Here are 3 keys to Game 4: 


1. Puck possession 

The Blue Jackets had a 9-2 shot advantage after starting Game 3 with three straight power plays, including a two-man advantage for 1:26. But they failed to score, and the Lightning outshot them 32-8 over the final 50:19.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper emphasized the importance of possessing the puck after they outshot the Blue Jackets 16-4 in the second period and 10-3 in the third in Game 3.

“First of all, we can’t take the penalties we were taking,” Cooper said. “We were extremely fortunate that we came out of that 5-on-3 unscathed. So that’s something that we’re going to have to shore up. But when we’re playing the 5-on-5 game, they are going to get in our zone. And when we are, we have to be reliable. And before we get to our zone, like through the neutral zone, we’ve got to make sure that we’re not giving up odd-man rushes. And before that, in the offensive zone, let’s make them play defense. 

“And if you’re going to do that in all those stages, the more you make them play defense, maybe they don’t have their legs or their wind to go down and play offense. So you’re almost defending all over the ice, and I thought last night we did a lot of our defending in the offensive zone.” 


2. Blue Jackets must avoid penalties

Columbus has yet to allow a power-play goal while giving Tampa Bay seven opportunities in three games, including one Saturday. The Blue Jackets will have to maintain that discipline against the Lightning, who went 2-for-5 on the power play during the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

“It was definitely a focus of our team to make sure we stayed out of the box as much as possible,” Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard said. “We’ve done a good job of moving our legs and making sure that we weren’t going to take some lazy penalties.”


3. Lightning power play 

That said, a power-play goal could go a long way to putting Tampa Bay in position to take a 3-1 series lead.

The Lightning power play ranked fifth in the NHL (23.1 percent) during the regular season, when they led the League with 243 total goals, 63 more than the Blue Jackets, who tied for 27th with 180.


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej PalatBrayden PointNikita Kucherov

Alex KillornAnthony CirelliTyler Johnson

Barclay GoodrowYanni GourdeBlake Coleman

Pat MaroonCarter VerhaegheCedric Paquette

Victor HedmanZach Bogosian

Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak

Mikhail SergachevKevin Shattenkirk

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Braydon Coburn, Mathieu Joseph, Jan Rutta, Luke Schenn, Mitchell Stephens, Alexander Volkov, Scott Wedgewood

Unfit to play: Steven Stamkos


Blue Jackets projected lineup

Alexandre TexierPierre-Luc DuboisOliver Bjorkstrand

Nick FolignoBoone JennerLiam Foudy

Gustav NyquistAlexander WennbergRiley Nash

Eric RobinsonDevin ShoreEmil Bemstrom

Zach Werenski — Seth Jones

Vladislav Gavrikov — David Savard

Ryan MurrayDean Kukan

Joonas Korpisalo

Matiss Kivlenieks

Scratched: Gabriel Carlsson, Adam Clendening, Scott Harrington, Stefan Matteau, Markus Nutivaara, Kevin Stenlund, Veini Vehvilainen

Unfit to play: Cam Atkinson, Nathan Gerbe, Elvis Merzlikins, Josh Anderson, Brandon Dubinsky

Status report

There haven’t been any updates on Atkinson and Gerbe since each was ruled unfit to play Game 2.

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