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Lightning get back on pace in win over Blue Jackets

Tampa Bay snaps its three-game winless streak with a convincing win in Columbus.
The Lightning's Corey Perry, top, scores against the Columbus Blue Jackets' Joonas Korpisalo, left, as Scott Harrington tries to block the puck during the first period of Tuesday's game in Columbus, Ohio.
The Lightning's Corey Perry, top, scores against the Columbus Blue Jackets' Joonas Korpisalo, left, as Scott Harrington tries to block the puck during the first period of Tuesday's game in Columbus, Ohio. [ JAY LAPRETE | AP ]
Published Jan. 5|Updated Jan. 5

Following three straight losses and some sluggish play Sunday in New York, Lightning coach Jon Cooper pushed the pace during Monday’s practice in Columbus.

With players in and out of the lineup due to COVID protocol — forward Ross Colton on Tuesday became the latest to miss time — the Lightning had struggled to find their tempo.

They stormed out of the gate Tuesday at Nationwide Arena, beating the Blue Jackets 7-2 to reclaim some positive vibes heading back to Tampa.

“I think the guys were ticked off a little bit about the Ranger game,” Cooper said. “There’s a lot of other factors going into that, too. The new guys coming back in the lineup. It’s a tough league to miss the amount of games or miss the time and then have to jump right back in.

“So I had a pretty good feeling. I know I know these guys well enough that we’re going to bounce back.”

Granted, the Lightning took advantage of a struggling Blue Jackets squad that has lost 10 of its last 13 games. But Tampa Bay’s push throughout the game was emblematic of a team that seemed not only focused, but maybe a little angry, too.

Center Brayden Point had three points — a goal and two assists — giving him eight points in five games since returning from a shoulder injury. Point set up the first of Ondrej Palat’s two goals, speeding through the neutral zone and weaving through the Columbus defense. He pushed the puck to Palat, who roofed a shot over Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.

Palat’s game-opening goal was the first of three for the Lightning on the power play, matching their season high. They entered Tuesday 4 for 29 with the man-advantage over their previous eight games.

“We got some bounces (Tuesday), which was huge, and that’s something we haven’t gotten a ton of lately or this year,” Point said. “To see a couple pucks just kind of bounce onto guy’s sticks, it was nice.

" ... I think we’re just sticking with it. We kind of shot the puck more, a little more greasy, a little bit more unconventional, and we get some bounces.”

The Lightning skated with speed, charged to the net, created traffic in front of Korpisalo and executed their shot-and-scramble game well — all facets that were absent in their 4-0 loss to the Rangers on Sunday.

Corey Perry and Pat Maroon scored power-play goals on rebounds from in close, and Palat’s second goal came on a redirection in front of the net. The goal gave him 400 career points, making him the seventh player in Lightning history to reach the milestone.

Perry put the Lightning up 3-0 with a power-play goal with 2:33 left in the first period, cleaning up a loose puck in front for his third goal in the past five games.

“That’s something we talked about,” Palat said. “We needed to shoot more, needed to get into dirty areas and score like that, because the last couple games we didn’t do a good enough job. So I thought we were good (Tuesday) in that.”

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After going without a goal in his first 17 games with the Lightning, Perry now has nine in his past 18, including three on the power play.

After Columbus’ Dean Kukan scored 37 seconds into the second period to make it 3-1, Point responded with his 11th goal of the season on a slap shot from the high slot.

Gustav Nyqvist cut the Lightning lead to 4-2 less than three minutes later, but Tampa Bay scored three unanswered goals to put the game away.
Maroon scored on the power play with 7:31 left in the second period, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare added to the lead 36 seconds into the third, and Alex Killorn capped the scoring with 7:40 left in the game.

“It’s nice to win again,” Palat said. “We had a little skid there for three games. I thought before that we played well, but it’s going to happen during the season.”

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