The Columbus Blue Jackets tempered their celebration after a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
Sure, it was good to win. But at the same time the club lost its top goaltender.
Sergei Bobrovsky, winner of the Vezina Trophy last year as the NHL’s top goalie, stopped all 18 shots before he left with what coach Todd Richards called a leg injury 4:13 into the third period. He was replaced by Curtis McElhinney, who made the last eight saves to preserve the shutout.
”Tomorrow he’s going to get an MRI. We’ll get more information,” Richards said. ”Obviously it was a leg injury. When he comes off the ice like that, you’re a bit unsure. But within the next day or two we should have a better idea.”
Nick Foligno, who had the highlight-reel goal for the winner in the second period, couldn’t discuss his own role in the victory before discussing the netminder his teammates simply call Bob.
”You hate to see Bob hurt. He’s been playing great and he made an unbelievable save right before that,” Foligno said. ”Then you have Curtis come in and do what he does, making sound saves. We have some confidence in our goaltending.”
Bobrovsky’s injury came on his most spectacular save of the night.
The Lightning’s J.T. Brown took a stretch pass and was all alone behind the defense. He tried to lift a wrist shot and Bobrovsky gloved it, falling to the ice with his legs spread while his left leg jammed into the goal post.
He had to be helped off the ice.
If Bobrovsky is sidelined for very long, it will be a daunting problem for the Blue Jackets. Their top scoring threat, Marian Gaborik, is still a couple of weeks away after spraining a knee, while big offseason free-agent signing Nathan Horton is maybe a month from playing his first games in a Columbus sweater after shoulder surgery.
Up until the time Bobrovsky left, the buzz was all about Foligno’s goal.
Ryan Johansen flicked the puck away from Valterri Filppula in the offensive zone, then fed Foligno who was all alone swooping in on goalie Ben Bishop. Foligno slid the puck back through his own legs — backward — and then backhanded it past Bishop for his seventh goal at the 4:30 mark.
The fans oohed and ahead when the replay was flashed on the monitors over center ice.
”(That came from) practicing in your driveway or watching on YouTube,” Foligno said with a laugh. ”It’s just one of those things that in the spur of the moment you think of. Luckily, it went in.”
After Bobrovsky departed, the Lightning made it interesting. Filppula’s shot just slid past the corner of the goal as time expired as the Lightning were shut out for the second game in a row and third time in five outings. They have lost their last five road games.
”You won’t win in this league unless you get some goals,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. ”Our commitment to go to those areas where we need to to score is not there. It’s unfortunate. It’s just not happening now. We’re learning by watching teams pass us in the standings.”
The game was played before the smallest crowd of the year at Nationwide Arena — 10,223.
The Blue Jackets were content to just chip and chase the puck down the stretch, but the Lightning still had chances.
Nate Thompson unleashed a hard wrist shot while moving in from the right wing with 6 1/2 minutes left but McElhinney made the stop.
The crowd booed with 4:46 left when Jack Johnson was called for tripping. Video replays clearly showed that Ondrej Palat fell down without anyone coming close to him. Still, the Blue Jackets killed that penalty.
With just over a minute left, Martin St. Louis went high with a backhand shot that McElhinney smothered. Then came Filppula’s close call at the end.
”We have a big power play at the end and we don’t even get a setup,” St. Louis said. ”It’s embarrassing. If you’re not (ticked off) and frustrated, something’s wrong with you right now.”
The Blue Jackets came out timid but turned things around.
”Tonight was a good step,” Richards said. ”I think there’s things we can build off.”
NOTES: The Lightning have gone 4-5-1 since major scoring threat Steven Stamkos broke his leg on Nov. 11 at Boston. … Bishop came in with a 14-4-1 record, just a 2.08 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. He had stopped 110 of his last 113 shots before Foligno’s goal. … The Blue Jackets have not won back-to-back games since Oct. 25 when they beat Toronto 5-2 to extend a home winning streak to three in a row. Since then they are 6-9-3. … Brandon Dubinsky returned to the Columbus lineup after missing six games with a bone bruise on his left ankle.