Brayden Point wasn’t thinking about anything other than to get the puck on net. After more than seven periods and 150 minutes of play, the Tampa Bay Lightning center might not have had the energy to do much more.
So when Point collected the puck at the top of the circles, he shot quickly and the puck sailed in over Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo‘s right shoulder at 10:27 of the fifth overtime to give the Lightning a 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Tuesday.
Point’s goal, his second of the game, ended the fourth-longest game in Stanley Cup Playoff history and came on Tampa Bay’s 88th shot on Korpisalo, who set an NHL record with 85 saves.
“It’s up there. It’s got to be the biggest, I would say,” Point said when asked to rank where the goal ranked in his life. “Jeez man, I don’t know. Just finally one goes in. I think that’s the emotion. Just super excited, but we can’t forget that’s only one game. There’s a lot of series left to be played.”
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Thursday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the Eastern hub city (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, SUN, FS-O), which doesn’t give Columbus and Tampa Bay much time to recover physically, and mentally, from the Game 1 marathon.
Point, whose deflection 6:27 into the first period tied the score at 1-1, matched Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman with a game-high nine shots on goal. Tampa Bay had 46 shots on goal in the first four overtime periods, but none in the fifth before Point’s goal.
“I thought we were getting some good chances,” Point said. “There’s no way to prepare for a game that goes that long. I thought we did a good job of just competing and keeping our feet moving, and so did they. They played fantastic as well. It was a good game. I thought it was a close game, but I don’t think you’re focusing on the end result.
“You’re just focusing on how you’re playing and what you can do the next shift.”
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov had two shots from the right circle blocked on the play that led to Point’s overtime winner. The first hit Columbus defenseman David Savard on the outside of his right foot. The second hit Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov up high before bouncing to Point above the top of the left circle.
Point, who was fourth on Tampa Bay with 25 goals in the regular season, didn’t hesitate, and the puck ended up in the top left corner of the net.
“I just see a rolling puck come to me and I just throw one on net,” he said. “I’m not even really aiming. Just sling one there and lucky enough it finds a corner. Like we’ve been saying, the focus was great for our group. We weren’t worried about how many shots we were getting or anything like that. We were just focused on what we need and making sure we were playing sound defensively.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper viewed the goal as emblematic of the persistence the Lightning needed to win the game.
“[Kucherov] shoots one and hits Savard in the foot.” Cooper said. “Then, he shoots a second one and he hits Gavrikov in the head. The puck comes to [Point] and it cups on his stick and it has to be an excellent shot to beat either one of the goalies tonight, and that’s what happened. It was a pretty euphoric time for us.”