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Last-place Jackets ‘clicking,’ take on Lightning

Dec 20, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Andrew Peeke (2) against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in last place in the Metropolitan Division, but they have to be encouraged by how they’ve played in their past two outings.

On Tuesday night in Tampa, the Blue Jackets, who went 1-1-0 over the weekend, will get another chance to show off their improved play as they meet the Tampa Bay Lightning for the final time this season.

The Jackets defeated Metro-leading Carolina on Saturday, topping the Hurricanes 4-3 in the shootout when Kent Johnson netted the game-deciding goal in the fifth round.

On Sunday, Columbus traveled to Washington, D.C., and lost 1-0 to goaltender Darcy Kuemper and the Capitals.

Despite suffering their 27th setback in 39 games, the Blue Jackets were pleased with their approach and performance against Washington, which occupies third place in the Metropolitan Division and was bolstered by the season debuts of Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson.

“Back-to-back nights against two really good teams and putting that effort back-to-back nights, the battle level, the compete, and even the execution aspect, it felt like it was all clicking,” Columbus defenseman Andrew Peeke said. “It makes the game more fun, and that’s how we have to play the rest of the year in order to improve as a hockey team.”

In their shootout triumph, the Blue Jackets were able to enjoy Kirill Marchenko’s exploits against the Hurricanes.

The 22-year-old rookie notched his first career hat trick and tallied as the leadoff skater in the shootout.

“It’s a pretty good feeling,” said sophomore center Cole Sillinger, 19. “I don’t know how many shots he had on net tonight, but seemed like he could’ve had more than three (goals). … We were all just super happy. (A) guy that for sure deserves it. He works super hard.”

Tampa Bay won the previous two meetings vs. Columbus this season — 5-2 in Ohio’s capital on Oct. 14 and 4-1 in Florida on Dec. 15.

Top goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 of 28 shots to record his first win of the season in the game in Columbus. Backup Brian Elliott posted 24 saves in the first matchup in Tampa.

Gridding third in the Atlantic Division, the Lightning no doubt will be eager to be back on home ice, where they are 15-4-1, after going 1-2-0 on their road swing through the Central Division.

Following a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks to open the trip, coach Jon Cooper’s squad lost 5-1 at the Minnesota Wild and 4-2 against the Winnipeg Jets.

“It’s a complete lack of discipline; it was embarrassing what we did,” Cooper said after his side allowed two power-play goals to the Jets. “How many 5-on-3s you’re up against in one season, you count on maybe one hand, and we give them two minute-and-a-half 5-on-3s in one game. Unacceptable. That shouldn’t happen. And good on Winnipeg.”

In the past 10 matchups against Columbus, the Lightning are 8-2-0 with five straight wins at home.

–Field Level Media