The blue carpet was rolled out and the festivities were in full force down at Nationwide Arena on the 14th of Oct. as the Blue Jackets celebrated the home opener of the 2022-2023 NHL season.
Admittedly, this was not the first action from the Blue Jackets this season. They opened on the road in Carolina just two days prior. They dropped their opening contest 4-1, and they lost forward Patrik Laine in the process. So, coming into the home opener the CBJ were eager to right the ship.
The on-ice festivities began with the introductions, this year featuring several new faces. Johnny Gaudreau, Erik Gudbranson, and Mathieu Oliver all made their home debut in front of the CBJ faithful.
The party was quick to continue once the puck was dropped to start the game. With the top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Boone Jenner and Justin Danforth on the ice, the Jackets were able to sustain some pressure in the offensive zone.
Eventually, this led to Johnny Hockey burying his first goal as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, giving the CBJ an early 1-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With the building ready to explode the cannon went off (and it is important to note that Johnny Hockey was unfazed).
For the vast majority of the time remaining in the first period, the Blue Jackets were on the back foot. They did a good job holding off the Lightning’s advances, but back-to-back penalties against the Jackets made things difficult.
After doing a solid job killing off the first penalty, and even getting some shorthand chances of their own, the Lightning offense took advantage of their second power play, with Corey Perry sneaking one past Daniil Tarasov.
Looking to regain momentum, the Jackets instead found another obstacle when a puck redirected off a skate and slipped past Tarasov (who was not expecting a bounce) and all of a sudden the Tampa Bay Lightning had a 2-1 lead.
This time the Blue Jackets came back with a little more ferocity. Soon after the Lightning took their first lead of the game, a Gus Nyquist shot went over the right shoulder of Andrei Vasilevskiy to tie the game back at two.
The back-and-forth nature of the first period continued with Tampa Bay forward Ross Colton finding the puck in the slot and then burying his chance to put the Lightning back on top 3-2. That score would hold to finish the first period.
After a quick 20-minute break the teams returned to the ice to begin the second period. The period started in a similar fashion to how the first one ended, with the Lightning having the puck for long periods of time in the CBJ defensive end.
A couple of physical shifts seemed to level out the ice, but a quick series of passes got the Lightning players in position to bury their fourth goal of the game, giving them a two-goal cushion.
The Jackets were then quickly presented with a chance to grab some momentum back for themselves when Mikhail Sergachev was called for a penalty. Despite some solid chances, the Jackets were unable to get their first power-play goal of the season on this chance.
The period went on back and forth before the next chance came. Justin Danforth (playing on the top line with Laine on the injured reserve) passed out a scoring chance, but his pass couldn’t connect with Zach Werenski.
The Blue Jackets’ power play unit would get another chance before the period was out, with Brandon Hagel going to the box for Tampa with just under two minutes remaining in the second period. That chance would get even better when Nicholas Paul joined him, giving the Jackets a 5-on-3 for 1:36. Despite the advantage the jackets were unable to find the back of the net and the second period ended with the Lightning leading 4-2.
Going into the third period the Jackets had 16 seconds of a two-man advantage remaining and 20 seconds of a one-man advantage, but it wasn’t enough to narrow the Lightning lead.
Shortly after it was announced that the opening night crowd was a sellout. Nationwide Arena welcomed 18,889 fans to celebrate hockey returning to Columbus.
The third period seemed to be going more in the Blue Jackets’ favor until Steven Stamkos redirected a shot in front of Tarasov, giving the reigning eastern conference champs a three-goal lead with just over 11 minutes remaining.
With just under ten minutes remaining, the CBJ power play was given another chance to find their first goal of the season, but once again they couldn’t capitalize.
The rest of the third period would drag on, but the score would hold as the Lightning held on for a 5-2 win to spoil the home opener for the Blue Jackets.
Despite the loss, there is plenty to be excited about when it comes to the Columbus Blue Jackets and the 2022-2023 season as they look to get back to the postseason.