John Tortorella led the Tampa Bay Lightning to their lone Stanley Cup title in 2004.
And now the coach’s current team is trying to make sure the overwhelming favorite doesn’t win a second one.
The Columbus Blue Jackets built a 3-0 lead on the way to a stunning 5-1 rout Friday night that gave them a 2-0 series lead against the record-tying, 62-win Lightning.
And the Lightning will be without their best player as they try to get back in the series because Nikita Kucherov has been suspended for his boarding incident.
“This is a five-alarm fire,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper, whose team didn’t face much adversity through the regular season, told reporters after the game. “But it’s adversity, and sometimes that’s good because you have to go through stuff like this. We’ll see how we respond.”
The Blue Jackets were outscored 17-3 in losing all three meetings to Tampa Bay during the regular season. But that was before they acted boldly at the trade deadline.
Rather than trying to get assets for pending free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, they held on to them and went after unrestricted free agents-to-be Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel.
And Duchene was the star of Game 2, scoring a goal and adding three assists. Panarin had a goal and assist. Bobrovsky made 23 saves and has been solid in the series since a shaky first period in Game 1.
The Lightning, who had the league’s best special teams, are 0-for-5 on the power play in the series and have given up three goals in six short-handed situations
The Blue Jackets fought back from a 3-0 deficit to win Game 1. They dominated throughout Game 2.
And once they had the lead, they played solid defense, keeping the Lightning from pressing the attack. Steven Stamkos, Kucherov and Brayden Point, all 40-goal scorers, have no points in the series and are a combined -7.
Kucherov, who scored 128 points this season, was kicked out of the game for boarding Markus Nutivaara.
The Lightning do have a glimmer of hope. The Blue Jackets have never won a playoff series, and last year, they blew a 2-0 series lead against the eventual champion Washington Capitals.
But the Capitals kept that series close, losing Games 1 and 2 at home in overtime. The Lightning will need to figure out how to get back to their regular-season success, starting Sunday night in Columbus, if they are to avoid one of the NHL’s biggest upsets.