TAMPA — The Lightning are still committing too many turnovers. Still making too many ill-timed passes that lead to odd-man rushes. Still getting caught looking too often in the defensive zone.
The Lightning weren’t at their best Sunday night against the Blue Jackets, but they got a 4-3 win in overtime on a Victor Hedman goal 10 seconds into the extra session.
The Lightning (32-14-2), winners of three of their last four and six of their last nine, remained in third place in a tight Central Division race. They can clinch their fourth straight playoff berth Monday night with a Nashville loss to Florida.
Coach Jon Cooper always emphasizes process over outcome, and with eight games remaining in the regular season and the Lightning knocking on the door of a playoff berth, finding their playoff selves is becoming more important each day.
Still, despite some defensive lapses that led to untimely goals allowed, the Lightning were fast and fluid against the Blue Jackets. The top line of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and rookie Alex Barre-Boulet drove them into overtime, where Hedman delivered his second extra-period goal of the season.
Hedman’s goal tied for the second fastest in overtime by a defenseman in NHL history. Point chased down the puck off the opening faceoff and skated toward the net across the right circle. As he drew attention, he passed the puck back to Hedman, who was trailing in the high slot. Hedman’s wrister beat goaltender Elvis Merzlikins stickside.
“I felt like I had a lot of good looks today and wasn’t able to convert,” said Hedman, who also scored the winner in Tampa Bay’s overtime win over Florida on April 15. “It was kind of a mess off the faceoff, and we were able to retrieve the puck, and we had three guys low, and ‘Pointer’ made a great play, and I had some time and space.”
Barre-Boulet’s first NHL goal tied the score at 3 2:41 into the third period on a power play, a critical response to Columbus forward Eric Robinson’s go-ahead goal 55 seconds into the period.
“It was clearly a big goal for us, and we needed every one of them tonight,” Cooper said of Barre-Boulet’s goal. “(Barre-Boulet has) been putting himself in the right spots, and … it was only a matter of time for him.”
From the low left circle, Barre-Boulet redirected a pass from Palat across the slot and inside the far post.
“It was a great play by ‘Pally,’ ” Barre-Boulet said. “I was wide open on the other side. I had an empty net there. I just had to put it in. It felt good.”
Palat (one goal, two assists) and Point (three assists) had three-point games, and their line drove the offense all game.
“For Pointer, it’s been coming for him,” Cooper said of the first line. “With every game here the last couple of weeks, he’s getting better and better. But I also think part of that is because he’s got some chemistry with (Barre-Boulet) and Pally’s been a mainstay of his line. But now those three are kind of working really well together, and I think it’s helped Pointer’s game.”
The Lightning allowed two goals in the final three minutes of the first period to give Columbus a 2-1 lead.
Forward Mathieu Joseph tied the score six minutes into the second.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
Blue Jackets 2-0-1-0—3
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Palat 14 (Point), 11:50. 2, Columbus, Grigorenko 3 (Gavrikov, Lehtonen), 17:16. 3, Columbus, Robinson 6 (Bjorkstrand, Domi), 19:29. Penalties—Roslovic, CBJ (Roughing), 4:16.
Second Period—4, Tampa Bay, Joseph 12 (Point, Palat), 6:09. Penalties—Grigorenko, CBJ (Hooking), 6:37; Goodrow, TB (Hooking), 9:03.
Third Period—5, Columbus, Robinson 7 (Bjorkstrand, Domi), 0:55. 6, Tampa Bay, Barre-Boulet 1 (Palat, Hedman), 2:41 (pp). Penalties—Grigorenko, CBJ (Holding), 2:02; Domi, CBJ (Hooking), 3:28.
Overtime—7, Tampa Bay, Hedman 9 (Point), 0:10. Penalties—None.
Shots on Goal—Columbus 5-5-12-0_22. Tampa Bay 8-16-9-1_34. Power-play opportunities—Columbus 0 of 1; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—Columbus, Merzlikins 6-12-3 (8 shots-7 saves), Columbus, Korpisalo 9-13-7 (26-23). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 28-8-1 (22-19). A—4,200 (19,092). T—2:26. Referees—Frederick L’Ecuyer, Pierre Lambert. Linesmen—Matt MacPherson, Pierre Racicot.
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