Blue Jackets face Lightning in must-win Game 5 of Eastern First Round


The Columbus Blue Jackets can be eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Wednesday (Noon ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, SUN, FS-O), mostly because they have had trouble scoring. 

But that doesn’t mean they’ll revert to a run-and-gun style in search of goals.

“I just don’t think we’re a risky team,” forward Nick Foligno said Tuesday. “I think we have an idea of how to play to be successful and make a team come 200 feet through us and make it hard on them. Then we pounce on our opportunities.

“That’s how we’ve played all year long. We’re not going to change just because of the situation we’re in. This is just one game.”

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The Blue Jackets trail 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, which is being played at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city. 

The No. 7-seeded Blue Jackets and No. 2-seeded Lightning have played a total of 330:27 in the series, including Tampa Bay’s 3-2 Game 1 win in five overtimes. The Blue Jackets have eight goals in that time, an average of 1.45 goals per 60 minutes. They averaged 2.57 goals per game in the regular season. 

That lack of scoring is a big reason they are one defeat from going home. 

“When you don’t score for a while things start to get a little frustrating,” defenseman Zach Werenski said. “But we know we’re capable of it. We just have to play our game and the goals will come.”

Weresnki was second on the Blue Jackets this season with 20 goals, one behind Oliver Bjorkstrand. But he has yet to score in the series. Forwards Gustav Nyquist (15 goals), Boone Jenner (11 goals) and Foligno, (10) and defenseman Seth Jones (six) have also been held without a goal. 

The Blue Jackets swept the Lightning in first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, scoring 19 goals in the four games. In the sweep, they scored first in the final three games of the series. 

This series, they scored first in Game 1, but have fallen behind in the other three.

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Jenner said that has resulted in the Blue Jackets consistently “chasing the game,” which is difficult to do against a Lightning team that has learned to close out games defensively.

“It’s definitely big throughout the playoffs,” Jenner said. “You can see every game is pretty tight, so to get the lead early is good. It’s something we want to get to tomorrow.”

If they can somehow find a way to do that, coach John Tortorella is optimistic about his team’s chances.

“We need to make a couple of more big offensive plays and score some goals,” he said. “No sense in getting frustrated. We just have to get ready for our next game.

“You don’t look too far ahead. I love our team. I like the way they’ve handled themselves the whole time here in the bubble. Certainly we have some work to do but we just have to look to tomorrow and get ready for our next game … That’s all you can do.”

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