The Tampa Bay Lightning hope to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals when they take a 3-1 lead into Game 5 of their best-of-seven series with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday in Toronto.
Monday’s Game 4 saw Tampa Bay skate away with a 2-1 win, with the Lightning being outshot (29-22) for the first time in the first-round series. It is perhaps fitting that such a gritty performance was carried by the line of Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman, who added some scoring punch alongside their usual forechecking prowess.
After combining for three total points over the Lightning’s first six playoff games, the line generated two goals and three assists in Game 4.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper was pleased to see the three players “rewarded for their work” on the scoresheet after all of their unheralded contributions throughout the postseason.
“They’re like gnats,” Cooper said. “I feel like they’re always just buzzing around, and as you try and knock them away, they just never leave. … They put work ethic above everything else. They’re selfless players, and they don’t have an off switch.”
The Lightning will take all the extra scoring they can get in what has been a very tight series. Tampa Bay holds only a 9-8 edge in total goals over the four games, and has held a two-goal lead for only 4:23 of the 330:27 minutes played.
Though the Blue Jackets led the NHL with 20 one-goal victories in the regular season, all three of their losses in the series have come in one-goal games.
Even a minor scoring increase would be a boon for Columbus, as the team has averaged approximately one goal for every 41 minutes played in the series. Despite the lack of scoring, defenseman Zach Werenski is still confident in future production.
“When you don’t score for a while, things start to get a little frustrating, but we know we’re capable of it,” said Werenski, who recorded his first point of the series in Game 4.
“We just have to continue to play our game and the goals will come.”
Joonas Korpisalo might have to deliver another big performance in net to keep the Blue Jackets’ season alive, though the goaltender has been up to the task this postseason. Korpisalo has a 1.57 goals-against average and .953 save percentage over eight games.
Winning three straight games will be a tall order for the Jackets, though it was just last season that Columbus completed a four-game sweep of Tampa Bay in the first round.
Andrei Vasilevskiy’s .856 save percentage in that series was a key reason why the Lightning were swept, though the goalie has bounced back against the Blue Jackets in 2020. Vasilevskiy has a .939 save percentage in the series and is expected to start in Game 5.
Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov is one point away from tying Martin St. Louis’ team record for career playoff points (68).
When holding a 3-1 lead in a playoff series, the Lightning are 5-1-0 in Game 5 over their franchise history.
If necessary, Game 6 will be played Friday in Toronto.
–Field Level Media