Two days after making an NHL-record 85 saves in a five-overtime loss, Joonas Korpisalo stopped 36 more shots to help the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1, on Thursday in Toronto to even the series at a game apiece.
Ryan Murray and Oliver Bjorkstrand scored in the first period for Columbus, both goals set up by Pierre-Luc Dubois. Alexander Wennberg added another in the third.
“We’ve all seen him play this past season,” Dubois said about Korpisalo. “He’s an All-Star, then he gets injured and then he comes back. Another break (for the coronavirus), but we all know what he’s capable of. We all know in the dressing room that he’s one of the best goalies in the NHL, and he’s feeling really good right now.”
Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lightning, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 19 saves. The Tampa Bay goalie had 61 stops Tuesday in a 4-3 victory in the fourth-longest game in league history.
Both teams looked sluggish at the start Thursday, especially Columbus, which took more than half the first period to get any offensive push going.
Kucherov grabbed a carom off the back boards and banked in a shot off Korpisalo’s back to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead 5:24 into the game. Columbus tied it when Dubois, who has four goals and four assists in seven playoff games, fed Murray with a perfect pass from behind the goal line with 7:08 left in the first.
The Blue Jackets took the lead on Bjorkstrand’s one-timer from the right circle on a late first-period power play. Columbus’ goals came on just six shots in the period.
“We lost our mojo a little bit when we gave up the lead,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Early in the third period, Columbus defenseman Seth Jones — who had 65 minutes, 6 seconds of ice time Tuesday, the most by a player since the league started tracking ice time — chased down Barclay Goodrow on a breakaway and disrupted what would have been a doorstep shot.
Then, with 8:33 left in the game, Wennberg drove in hard from the right and beat Vasilevskiy. Korpisalo then withstood the last 3:41 of a Lightning 6-on-5 attack.
“I don’t think we’re frustrated at all,” Tampa Bay center Anthony Cirelli said. “We’re getting pucks to the net. We’re getting good looks. We’ve got to bury our chances when we get them.”
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella downplayed the effort by his team to rebound on the heels of losing a heart-breaker in the Game 1 marathon.
“It’s what we do,” Tortorella said. “It’s what pros are supposed to do. I don’t think it’s anything special. I think it’s the proper way of going about your business. And we’ve had a lot of opportunities with the ups and downs, especially the past couple of weeks, to work at that.”
Tortorella pointed to the Columbus penalty kill that came after the Lightning had taken a 1-0 in the first period as a turning point.
Vegas goes two games up on Chicago
Even though Reilly Smith called it a lucky bounce, a whole lot more than luck is working right now for the Vegas Golden Knights.
The former Bruins forward scored in overtime, Robin Lehner made 22 saves, and the Golden Knights beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-3, in Edmonton, Alberta, to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round series. Vegas has won all five of its games since the NHL resumed.
“We’re a pretty resilient group,” said Smith, who has three goals in the series. “We need to bring that for all 60 minutes. . . . There’s still a lot of things we need to clean up, but we’ll take the win and try to get a little bit better tomorrow.”
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 35 of the 39 shots he faced, including 16 in the third period alone.
The Western Conference top-seeded Golden Knights are looking for their first playoff series victory since 2018. They reached the Stanley Cup Final that year, then lost to San Jose in seven games in the first round last year.
“He’s come back from the pause and has got a lot of confidence, a lot of energy, he’s healthy,” coach Peter DeBoer said about Smith. “He’s really driving a lot of plays for us and important plays.”
The Golden Knights were without regular-season leading scorer Max Pacioretty, who only joined them in the Edmonton bubble last week. DeBoer didn't have an update on Pacioretty or goal-scorer Tomas Nosek, who took his last shift late in the second period and didn't return.
Paul Stastny opened the scoring for Vegas 10:44 in after strong work down low by Smith and Jonathan Marchessault, and Nosek made it 2-0 at the 15:35 mark of the first period. It was Stastny's first goal since hockey returned.
“He steps up every night,” Smith said of Stastny. “He does everything, so it’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
Chicago got goals from rookies Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik in the second to tie it. Mark Stone restored the lead for Vegas with 2:40 left in the period, then Dylan Strome got it right back for the Blackhawks 13.6 seconds before intermission.
“I think we played a better team game today,” said Strome, who hit the crossbar early in overtime. “We did a good job of holding their forwards up coming into the zone and giving our D a little more time. We’ve got to continue to do that and be ready for next game.”
Patrick Kane assisted on all three Chicago goals in the second period.
Washington loses Nicklas Backstrom to possible concussion
Veteran center Nicklas Backstrom is in concussion protocol and will not play Friday in Game 2 of Washington’s first-round playoff series against the New York Islanders, coach Todd Reirden said Thursday.
Less than three minutes into Wednesday's 4-2 Game 1 loss, Islanders captain Anders Lee delivered a late hit on Backstrom, whose head was turned at impact. Lee was called for interference on the play.
"Nick is a tremendous leader for us," Reirden said Thursday. "His body of work as a player speaks for itself, but that's next man up. Who's going to take advantage of that opportunity? That's playoff hockey. That's winning hockey during the regular season is having guys that are in depth positions that take advantage of it. Sometimes you have players that roles are elevated within the game. That's what we're challenged with and we'll be ready for that tomorrow."
According to the NHL's player safety guidance on what constitutes an interference call, all late hits that are evaluated for supplemental discipline are timed to the hundredth of a second and timing is "not the determining factor."
Only on plays where late hits are "excessively high, predatory, or violent," may the infractions rise to the level of supplemental discipline. No additional discipline will be issued from the NHL's Department of Player Safety for Lee's hit.
Backstrom played the rest of the first period after the hit, recording 7 minutes, 21 seconds of ice time. When Backstrom came to the bench, he and trainer Jason Serbus had an extensive conversation. Backstrom, who has a history of concussions, would not return to the bench for the second period and did not play the rest of the game.
Capitals players and coaches were furious with the hit, with Reirden calling it "predatory" and John Carlson saying it looked "real dirty." Lee said after the game that he "tried to throw the brakes on a little bit there but I caught him."
"It's definitely fuel for the fire, in a way," Tom Wilson said. "Obviously we didn't like the hit … we are going to do our best to play for him."
With Backstrom out for Friday and potentially longer, the Capitals will be down a veteran player who has 107 points (36 goals, 71 assists) in 127 playoff games over 12 years, as well as one of their leaders. In 61 regular season games, Backstrom tallied 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists). In the eight games Backstrom missed with an upper body injury, Washington went 6-1-1, winning six straight and completing its first 4-0-0 road trip since 1993.