Hear that? That’s the sound of alarm bells going off in Tampa Bay.
Down 2-0 in their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets after Friday’s 5-1 loss, the powerhouse Lightning are looking like mere mortals. It’s a look we’re not used to seeing with this team, whose 62-16-4 record this year matched a league record for most victories in a single season and saw them finish a whopping 21 points ahead of the second-place club.
As we know, though, things can change very quickly in the post-season.
“Things just happen so fast [in the playoffs]. It’s 0-0 and there’s a lot of excitement going into Game 1 and then all of a sudden you’re down 2-0 at home and alarms are going off,” head coach Jon Cooper told reporters after Friday’s Game 2. “Have we faced a ton of adversity this year? We haven’t. I’ve been in the league six years and it probably hasn’t gone any easier than it has this year.”
After the first 20 minutes of Wednesday’s Game 1, it looked like the Lightning would make easy work of the Blue Jackets. But it’s been the exact opposite ever since, with Columbus proving on Friday that their rallying effort two nights prior was no fluke. Since the Lightning’s dominant first period, the Blue Jackets have outshot Tampa Bay 48-41, outscored them 9-1 (including seven unanswered goals to finish Game 1 and start Game 2), and have clearly gotten under their opponent’s skin.
The loss marked the first time the Lightning have lost back-to-back games since Feb. 7. For a team that faced little to no adversity through 82 regular season games, they’ve certainly found some now.