Cup favourite Tampa falls behind 3-0 in series after game without Kucherov, Hedman
Columbus's Matt Duchene celebrates his first-period goal during the Blue Jackets's 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of their first-round series on Sunday. (Jay LaPrete/The Associated Press) comments
The Columbus Blue Jackets extended their post-season mastery of the Tampa Bay Lightning, beating the NHL's best team 3-1 on Sunday night and moving to within a game of sweeping the playoff series.
Matt Duchene, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Cam Atkinson scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky fended off a desperate third-period charge to finish with 30 saves for the Blue Jackets, who took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal. Columbus will try to win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history in Game 4 at home Tuesday night.
- BOXSCORE: Blue Jackets 3, Lightning 1
- Sunday's results
Without their top scorer, the suspended Nikita Kucherov, and injured defenceman Victor Hedman, the Lightning, who finished with a league-best 62 wins, couldn't find any momentum until late in the final period, and then Bobrovsky rose to the challenge.
Columbus has commanded the series since they fell behind 3-0 in the opening period of Game 1, only to rally to win that one 4-3. They pummeled the Lightning 5-1 in Game 2, and solidly outplayed them for all but a few minutes on Sunday.
The night was satisfying for Bobrovsky — he hasn't been great in the playoffs the last two seasons — and the Blue Jackets, who were 2-8 at Nationwide Arena in three previous post-season appearances. They are the only NHL team that hasn't won a playoff series.
The Lightning are facing an unexpected quick elimination. Teams have come back from 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series on just four previous occasions. The last time was in 2014, when the Los Angeles Kings dug out of the hole in the opening series against San Jose and eventually won the Stanley Cup.
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Last season, the Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 series lead over Washington, only to drop four straight, three of them in Columbus.
After a scoreless first period, the Blue Jackets struck 1:44 into the second when Duchene was in the right place to score off a rebounded. Bjorkstrand went over Andrei Vasilevskiy's head from the right circle on a power play for a 2-0 Columbus lead at 8:25, with rookie Alexandre Texier picking up his first NHL assist.
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Tampa Bay picked up the offensive pressure in the third period and got on the board when Ondrej Palat beat Bobrovsky from the slot at 4:40. But the Lighting couldn't muster any more, and Atkinson connected on an empty-netter with a minute left in the game.