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It should be no surprise that the lineup that helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup last season was the group that helped them out of a seven-game scoring slump Thursday night in Columbus.
After scoring four goals in the first period — including three in 4:43 — the Lightning couldn’t have asked for a better start. That led to a 6-4 victory over the Blue Jackets and the third win in eight games for Tampa Bay (27-11-2).
One downside to the win: Steven Stamkos left during the third period with an apparent injury and did not return. Coach Jon Cooper didn’t have an update after the game.
It started with the third line of Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow.
“(Gourde’s) line drove the bus (Thursday),” Cooper said. “They did everything we asked of them, and they got rewarded for some excellent play.”
The key was trying to keep the game as simple as possible, Gourde said.
Such was the case for defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s second goal of the night, which gave the Lightning a 6-2 lead with 1:04 to go in the second period.
Goodrow battled Columbus forward Max Domi for puck possession in the corner, eventually knocking the puck out toward Gourde. Gourde shuffled out a pass through traffic to McDonagh, who took a shot on Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins from just below the blue line.
“It was pretty much what our line does,” Gourde said about the goal. “We’re relentless, and when we do that, we’re tough to play against.”
Coleman scored in the first minute of the game for his first goal in 13 games. Goodrow scored to put the Lightning up 3-0 in the first, his first goal in 21 games. And Gourde had four assists, his first points in six games.
“That line, when they’re feeling it, they’re tough to stop,” McDonagh said of the trio. “They simplify the game for one another. They keep the puck going north. They have some bounces that went their way, but they have that finishing ability, too, offensively, and it was just a matter of time.”
McDonagh specifically highlighted the work of Gourde, who tied his season high for points. He had four at Chicago on March 7.
The third line’s ability to create the scoring chances it did against the Blue Jackets helped alleviate some of the pressure the Lightning had been feeling having lost five of their previous seven games.
“It was huge to get that first goal,” Gourde said. “Sometimes it’s hard to chase the game (if you’re behind), so it was definitely a key moment in the game.”
Entering the game, the third line had found the score sheet only four times in the past seven games (two goals, two assists). Against the Blue Jackets, it had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) with eight coming in the first period.
“They’re a 200-foot line, and they played both ends of the ice,” Cooper said. “You’re comfortable in whatever they do. “Usually, a lot of hard work goes into the way those guys play, so when they get rewarded like this, you really like to see it because they get some tough assignments on a lot of nights, and for them to break out like this, good for them.”
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