For the first time all season, the Lightning have lost three straight games. And it certainly couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The Blue Jackets poured on the pressure and emerged with a 3–1 win and a 3–0 series lead, putting the Presidents’ Tophy–winning Lightning on the brink of elimination without a single playoff win to show for it. The Lightning seemed to have everything in their favor heading into the playoffs, but found themselves entering Game 3 with a two-game hole, their top scorer suspended and their top defenseman injured. It showed.
The first period was scoreless, but the Blue Jackets were still relentless, outshooting the Lightning 12–3. The energy carried over into the second, with Matt Duchene scoring 1:44 into the frame and Oliver Bjorkstrand adding one on the power play midway through, capitalizing on an interference call on Ryan Callahan.
The Lightning could have used Nikita Kucherov, who was serving a one-game suspension, for some offensive magic, or Victor Hedman, who sat out with lingering health issues. By the time Tampa Bay mustered up any energy to turn into scoring chances, it was the third period and it wasn’t enough to make up for the first two periods (or the first two games of the series). Ondrej Palat stuck with his shot and pushed the rebound into the net after Sergei Bobrovsky made the initial save. Andrei Vasilevskiy was pulled with 1:25 left, but Cam Atkinson’s empty-netter sealed Columbus’s win and now the Lightning are faced with a three-game deficit.
ISLANDERS 4, PENGUINS 1
After a couple of lackluster games at Nassau Coliseum, the Penguins got off to a quick start back home when Garrett Wilson redirected a shot from Marcus Pettersson. But the lead didn’t last very long. Like not even 30 seconds. Jordan Eberle quickly evened things up from a ridiculous angle to score his third goal of the series. And the Islanders struck again a minute later on an odd-man rush with a snipe from Brock Nelson. The Islanders carried the 2–1 lead through the third period until everyone decided to switch back to watch Tiger Woods sink his final putt to win his fifth Masters and Leo Komarov scored to make it 3–1. Anders Lee lofted one down ice for an empty-netter to seal the win.
JETS 6, BLUES 3
Home ice be damned! After dropping both games in Winnipeg, the Jets are back in it with a strong win in St. Louis. The Blues were first on the board with a snipe from David Perron in the high slot to close out the first, but the Jets responded with three straight goals in the second from Kevin Hayes, Patrik Laine (his third in as many games), and by Kyle Connor. The Blues kept at it in the third with two goals, but the Jets added three of their own, including Dustin Byfuglien’s first of the series, which he somehow scored from behind the goal line.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS 6, SHARKS 3
Goals and penalties minutes were the name of Game 3, as Mark Stone scored his first-ever NHL hat trick and tempers flared enough to bring the series' penalty minutes total up to 146. Vegas was all about the quick start, scoring three of their goals within the first minute of each period. Two of those came from Stone, his first coming 16 seconds into the game and the other 36 seconds into the third. Paul Stastny scored 21 seconds into the second period and followed it up with a power-play goal to end the frame. Stone wrapped it up with his third goal of the night and Vegas won their second straight in commanding fashion in what has been a highly entertaining series.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Mark Stone set the tone when he scored 16 seconds into the game and he kept that pace going all night long. All three of his goals were impressive, but the third one on the backhand was a beaut and led to his first career hat trick (and also officially turned Martin Jones into a slice of Swiss cheese).
1. Mark Stone, VGK — The Lightning have five total goals this postseason. The Penguins also have five. Mark Stone has six. Stone had a five-point game on Sunday and now leads the league in playoff points with eight. The Stone Age is strong in Vegas.
2. Paul Stastny, VGK — Vegas’s second line has been unstoppable since the addition of Stone at the deadline, and Stastny is one of the direct beneficiaries of that trade. Stastny notched two goals and three assists in a Game 3.
3. Sergei Bobrovsky — There are several reasons factoring into Columbus’s unexpected domination of Tampa Bay, but the brick wall that Bobrovsky has built in net is certainly one of them. He stopped 30 of 31 shots, half of those saves coming in the third period, and has a .940 save percentage through the first three games.