Wow. Just wow. As I sit down to write this piece, it’s about an hour after the Blue Jackets pulled off one of the most thrilling and exhilarating comebacks I’ve ever witnessed. I still can’t quite process everything that went down tonight, from the abysmal first period, the turning of the tides in the second, and the Jackets’ fearless effort to complete the comeback in the third. So, let’s unpack the evening’s events, and try and wrap our heads around everything that happened.
In many ways, this game paralleled game one of last year’s playoffs, where the Jackets dug themselves a deficit that they had to dig themselves out of. Sure enough, the Jackets dug in, scored some goals, and tied the game back up and forced overtime. And in overtime, who could forget Panarin’s beauty of a goal to steal game one for Columbus?
So, let’s rewind to the first period. The Jackets come out with enthusiasm out of the gate, playing actually pretty well for the first part of the period. At this point, I thought if we could keep this kind of play up, they could pose a real threat to Tampa in this game.
Then, a fight breaks out after Dubinsky is hit high. The Jackets emerge from the scrum with a power play. Good, I thought, two minutes where the Lightning can’t score. And as soon as I thought that, I eat my words as Seth Jones gives the puck right to Alex Killorn, who buries it on the other end. It’s the beginning of the end.
The period goes on, but then Bobrovsky gives up a juicy rebound, right to the stick of Cirelli. Oh, brother. How are they gonna do anything with Bobrovsky giving up crap like that? He was bailed out from giving up another softie by Markus Nutivaara but would yield a third goal before the period’s end.
At this point, I focused more of my attention on the beginning of Islanders versus Penguins. I flipped back and forth until the first period was over in Nassau. The Jackets weathered the early storm of the period, and then, it happened. Foligno takes a feed on a breakaway and buries it at the other end, the icebreaker for Columbus. A good start, but I still wasn’t very invested into the prospect of a Jackets comeback.
The Jackets controlled the majority of the play throughout the rest of the period, which is really all I could hope for after our treacherous first. However, they couldn’t convert and put the puck in the net. After they failed to score to end the period (and Bobrovsky had to make some stellar saves), I hoped the Jackets would keep the game competitive in the third, cut their losses, and fight for game two.
This was still my thought process well into the third until Savard completely changed my outlook on the game. After he completely out-maneuvered Hedman to the net and finished it with a beauty of a goal, I, for the first time since the Killorn breakaway, thought the Blue Jackets had a legitimate chance at winning this game.
But then Dubinsky took a huge four-minute double minor penalty that gave the Lightning four minutes of power play. And I wrote off the Jackets again, thinking there was no way they could stop the lethal Bolts PP for that long a period. I watched with low expectations, but as each second ticked down, I started to gain a little more hope.
And then, I see Josh Anderson possessing the puck out of the zone, with David Savard coming with him for a shorthanded break. I yell at Andy to keep going, and sure enough, he cuts across the ice on Hedman, sees an open lane, and shoots it at Vasilevskiy. And it goes in the net, and I go crazy, yelling and screaming in excitement.
And then the Bolts high-stick Foligno, negating what’s left of the Lightning PP and giving the Jackets an abbreviated PP. They kill off the 4-on-4, and once they get to the man advantage, Panarin centers a beautiful feed that Seth Jones rockets to the top of the net. And I go bananas. The Jackets have really come back from a three-goal deficit to lead the league’s best team in the third period.
The Jackets then lock it down in the final nervous minutes and hang on to complete one of the greatest comebacks I’ve seen. Bobrovsky completely transformed into the world-class goalie we expect him to be. The offensive production kicked it in gear once they got their feet under them. And the defense held all the big guns at bay and locked it down to secure the victory. A truly incredible performance put on by the Blue Jackets, one for the ages.
So, what do I think about all this? I think it is possibly the greatest team effort I’ve seen from the Jackets in my time as a fan. The fearlessness and determination they showed in not backing down, regrouping, and chipping away at the lead throughout the comeback was incredible. They’re going to need more incredible performances if they want to pull off the upset. However, their gutsy performance last night shows they’re more than capable of doing what it takes to shock the hockey world and beat Goliath.