Stunned: NHL-best Lightning swept by Columbus in first round

Paola Ditto
Aprile 17, 2019

The Columbus Blue Jackets edged the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 in Game 3 and are now just 1 win away from their 1st ever playoff series victory.

Cirelli also had five shorthanded goals in 82 regular-season contests, and notching No. 6 on Tuesday would be a massive boost for Lightning team that boasted the NHL's top penalty-kill and power play. He hasn't practised since leaving Game 2. They weren't just winning - they were crushing opponents. Of their 62 wins, 30 were by a margin of three or more goals, which was tied for the most since 1992-93.

Under the hood it's hard to argue that Tampa Bay doesn't deserve to be in this predicament.

"When you have the amount of points we had, it's a blessing and a curse, in a way". You don't play any meaningful hockey for a long time. It's not an excuse.

"They were the better team", said Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos, who also didn't score until Game 4. "We're excited about the opportunity we've given ourselves but we know it's going to be the hardest game of the series". We guess we'd be the hero of the Bolts Nation if we had a viable answer to this question.

It's do or die for the Lightning tonight as the team looks to avoid a series sweep against the Blue Jackets in Game 4. "They never did that in the regular season because they were always chasing us", Cooper said.

The Penguins don't have a win, Crosby doesn't have a point and if Pittsburgh can't find a way to solve New York's byzantine defensive structure and red-hot goaltender Robin Lehner (7:30 p.m. ATT), a team that entered the playoffs in search of a third Stanley Cup in four years will head into an offseason of soul searching. "We're going to enjoy it, but we've got to carry this momentum forward now".

Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task. In contrast, Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy finished the series with an.856 save percentage and a 3.82 goals-against average.

Perhaps the biggest disparity was on special teams. The power-play goal, Tarasenko's eighth career in the postseason, moved him into a tie with Brian Sutter and Al MacInnis for fourth in franchise history.

Josh Anderson leads the Blue Jackets with a plus-25 in 82 games played this season.

Nineteen-year-old Alexandre Texier, who was playing in the Finnish league last month, opened the scoring Tuesday with his first NHL goal, then added one of the empty-netters.

The Blue Jackets fell behind 3-0 in the first period of the opening game in Tampa, but rebounded to win that one 4-3. While getting exactly zero Power Play opportunities in a game is certainly an eyebrow raiser, this is not the reason the Lightning is in the hole they are now buried in. They built an 8-0 advantage in shots on goal as it took the Jets nearly 11 minutes to test Binnington, who came up with a couple of saves on a Winnipeg power play to keep the game scoreless. You have to give them some credit. "I don't think there was a lot of pressure (at the beginning of the series)". After losing 4-1 at the Edmonton Oilers on March 21 they were one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for the second wild card. It was together when they lost Games 6 and 7 (again) to the Washington Capitals last season. Against the Blue Jackets, the Lightning squandered a 3-0 lead in Game 1 and never recovered after the Jackets rallied to win. "It's amusing: We're expected to go far this year, and we go nowhere". In 2015, no one expected us to go anywhere, and we went far, with the same core of players.

"It's hard to win in this league".

Where did you go, Kucherov?

Maybe, but for both Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, the hard work is just beginning if they want to pull off the improbable. "And it's unfortunate because it puts a bluntness on what was one hell of a regular season".

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