Lightning take big lead, hold on for 7-4 win
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Tampa Bay Lightning center Brian Boyle was happy with a 7-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
He wasn't so pleased with how it all unfolded.
''That was not exactly a perfect game, by any means,'' he said.
The Lightning played almost a perfect first period in coasting to a quick 4-0 lead. What followed wasn't flawless, however.
Tyler Johnson scored twice and Ryan Callahan added a goal and two assists to lead the way as the Lightning won their fifth in a row and extended the Blue Jackets' losing streak to eight games.
''It's the nature of team sports,'' said Evgeni Nabokov, who had 28 saves. ''Once you go (up) by so much, there's a tendency for the other team to get hungry and they don't want to get embarrassed.''
Columbus cut the lead to two goals early in the third period and had several good cracks at Nabokov to cut the advantage even further.
''The way we finished the last two periods was a little bit disappointing,'' defenseman Anton Stralman said. ''But at the end of the day we got the two points and that's what we came here to do.''
Stralman, Boyle and Cedric Paquette each had a goal, and J.T. Brown added a goal and an assist for the Lightning, who have outscored opponents 27-15 during their streak. Jonathan Drouin had two assists.
''They played last night and we came out strong,'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ''We built it up to 4-0. That's what you have to do to win a hockey game, and that's what we did.''
The game seemed to be all but over a little more than 16 minutes in.
Brown scored his first of the season, chipping in his own blocked redirect high into the net at 5:46.
Just 21 seconds later, before Brown's goal was completely announced, Drouin's shot led to a big rebound off rookie goalie Anton Forsberg, with Paquette on the right wing to jam it in.
''The first period, they were skating and we were chasing,'' Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. ''We had a lot of mistakes.''
Then on the power play, Steven Stamkos' hard wrist shot from the point was redirected by Callahan, with Stralman converting on another rebound. Brown then carried the puck up on a rush but was checked and slammed hard into the back boards. Brenden Morrow gathered the puck and whipped a quick pass to a trailing Boyle for the easy tap-in.
''We worked hard for our goals,'' Boyle said. ''It wasn't easy getting them. It feels easy when they come in bunches.''
The teams traded goals in a four-goal second period, with Scott Hartnell scoring two goals for the second consecutive night for the Blue Jackets. Then Ryan Johansen, who also had an assist, scored, and Nick Foligno added a goal early in the third period to make it 6-4.
Suddenly a crowd of 14,892 came to life and the Blue Jackets dominated the period, peppering Nabokov with 17 shots while the Lightning struggled to get five.
Nabokov stopped Cam Atkinson from point-blank range or the lead would have fallen to one goal with just over 14 minutes left in regulation.
But the Blue Jackets, hampered by injuries to several of their top players, including front-line goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, couldn't get closer.
Columbus had lost six in a row in regulation before earning a point in a 3-2 overtime loss at Carolina on Friday. The Lightning was already in their hotel in Ohio's capital city, resting up, and it showed early.
The longest losing streak in the Blue Jackets' 14 seasons is nine games (0-7-2) from Dec. 10-26, 2009.
''It's getting to the point where it's embarrassing us,'' Atkinson said. ''But we just have to stick together as a team. We know what we're capable of doing.''
NOTES: Columbus D Jack Johnson served the second of his three-game suspension for a high hit against Carolina's Jiri Tlusty. ... The Lightning opened a three-game, four-day road swing that will also take them to Detroit (Sunday) and Chicago (Tuesday). ... James Wisniewski had two assists for Columbus.
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