When the Lightning swept the Blue Jackets during the regular season, all three of the games were played before the trade deadline. Before Columbus decided it was going all-in to make a serious playoff run and stocked up with a bunch of rentals. Before Columbus acquired several weapons, including Matt Duchene.
Apparently Duchene, who had four points in the Blue Jackets’ 5–1 win in Game 2 Friday night, was the key. After notching assists on each of the first two goals, the center scored his first-ever playoff goal, finding a loose rebound near the crease and swatting it at Andrei Vasilevskiy, somehow finding the back of the net.
“I don’t know how it went in, to be honest. I just kind of threw it there,” Duchene said on the broadcast following the game.
After shocking Tampa Bay in Game 1 with a four-goal comeback win, Columbus quickly picked up right where it left off in Game 2 with Cam Atkinson scoring on a redirect 5:15 into the first period. Zach Werenski scored from the point just three seconds into the power play six minutes later. Duchene’s goal in the second period made it seven straight goals for the Blue Jackets in the series.
Mikhail Sergachev scored five minutes into the third to show signs of life for the Lightning, but Columbus responded when Boone Jenner picked the puck up along the boards and found Riley Nash in the slot, who went high blocker side on Vasilevskiy to make it 4–1. Artemi Panarin added one for good measure and now the Blue Jackets take a 2–0 series lead back to Columbus, just like we all predicted.
To make things worse for Tampa Bay, it could very well be without their best player in Game 3 after Nikita Kucherov was given a minor, major and a game misconduct for boarding Markus Nutivaara. After a trip earlier in the play, Kucherov made heavy contact with Nutivaara’s while he was on his knees. Kucherov will have a hearing on Saturday.
ISLANDERS 3, PENGUINS 1
It was a pretty messy start at Nassau Coliseum between the Penguins and Islanders, with a scoreless first period that featured six penalties, but Erik Gudbranson got the scoring started in the second period. Yes that’s right: The Blue Jackets have a 2–0 series lead over the league’s best team and Erik Gudbranson scored a playoff goal. But unlike Columbus’s surprising dominance, the Penugins’ lead wouldn’t last very long. In fact it lasted less than three minutes before Anthony Beauvillier got on the board. Beauvillier found Mathew Barzal crashing the net and when the rebound was left sitting all alone in the crease, Beauvillier swooped in to knock the puck into a wide-open net. The celebration lasted roughly three seconds before a full-on brawl broke out behind the net. Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey tallied goals in the third period and the Islanders take a commanding 2–0 lead to Pittsburgh.
BLUES 4, JETS 3
Postseason Ryan O’Reilly is back and his game-winner has the Blues going back to St. Louis up two games. After a hectic second period that saw a couple lead changes, O’Reilly came out strong early in the third with a snap shot that quickly went through Ben Chiarot’s legs and past Connor Hellebuyck, giving O’Reilly his first playoff goal in five years. The teams traded goals all night long, with two from Oskar Sundqvist for St. Louis and a power play goal from Patrik Laine, giving him two straight games with goals for the Jets.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5, SHARKS 3
Just two games in and this series has already lived up to the hype. It took all of six minutes for the Golden Knights to take a 3–0 lead and chase Martin Jones. But the goalie change settled things down in the Shark Tank, and San Jose scored three goals in just over two minutes to tie things up heading into the first intermission. The Sharks thought they took the lead early in the second, but it was disallowed and Logan Couture was actually given a penalty for goaltender interference instead. Mark Stone converted on Vegas’s power play to retake the lead. William Karlsson scored an insurance goal shorthanded (their second shorty of the night) midway through the third.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Eberle has been big for the Islanders so for this series (see below) but this sneaky backhand shot was nasty. Being the game-winner was an added bonus.
1. Matt Duchene, CBJ — After being held pointless in Game 1, Duchene came alive Friday with a goal and three assists, proving to be the valuable late-season acquisition Columbus was looking for in him.
2. Jordan Eberle, NYI — For the second straight game, Eberle has tallied a goal and an assist, including the Islanders’ game-winner on Friday. As an UFA this summer, Eberle could cash in on a serious contract if he keeps this up and make up for a down regular season.
3. Vegas Penalty Kill — Maybe this is a copout, but the Golden Knights destroyed San Jose’s power play in multiple ways Friday night. Yes, Tomas Hertl managed one goal on the man-advantage for the Sharks. But Vegas was successful on seven of their eight penalty kills, including one at the end of the game that San Jose also pulled Aaron Dell during. Oh, and the Golden Knights cashed in on two shorthanded goals for a fun bonus.