Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated from Stanley Cup playoffs
|Toronto Star 16 Apr 2019 at 23:25|
COLUMBUS, OHIO—The Tampa Bay Lightning ended up on the wrong side of NHL history, getting swept in the first round of the playoffs after one of the best regular seasons ever.
The Columbus Blue Jackets capped a stunning sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy winners with a 7-3 victory Tuesday night. Tampa Bay became the first team in the expansion era, which began in 1967-68, to go winless in the first round of the playoffs after leading the league in points during the regular season.
Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped this Columbus Blue Jackets’ shot, from Oliver Bjorkstrand. (Jay LaPrete / AP)
And what a season it was. Tampa Bay tied the NHL record for wins with 62 and amassed 128 points, fourth in NHL history.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, didn’t clinch the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot until the 81st game. But they outplayed the Lightning with a smothering forecheck and stellar goaltending by Sergei Bobrovsky.
Columbus won its first playoff series in its fifth try and advances to play the winner of the Boston-Toronto series, which the Maple Leafs lead 2-1.
“It was a great series,” Columbus winger Josh Anderson said. “That’s the way we want to play.”
Bobrovsky carried the day again for the Blue Jackets, finishing with 30 saves.
With Columbus clinging to a 4-3 lead in the third period, Tampa Bay had wrested the momentum from the Blue Jackets but still couldn’t solve Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets’ final three goals came late in the period after the Lightning had pulled goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for an extra skater.
Rookie Alexandre Texier, who was brought over after his season ended in the Finnish league, scored his first NHL goal and later added one of the empty-netters. Pierre Luc-Dubois had a goal and a pair of assists.
A dozen different players scored for Columbus in the series.
Steven Stamkos, Cedric Paquette and Brayden Point scored for Tampa Bay, which never led in this elimination game. The Lightning tied it at 3 on Point’s goal late in the second period, but Oliver Bjorkstrand scored 54 seconds later to put Columbus ahead for good.
Also Tuesday, the New York Islanders completed their four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 3-1 victory.
PRIZE NIGHT: The NHL will hold its annual awards ceremony June 19 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
The league announced the date and venue Tuesday night before Game 4 of the first-round playoff series between the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights.
It marks the 11th year of a partnership between the NHL and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which was extended for three years last April, and the 10th time the league will honour the best players and the top performances of the season in Las Vegas.
Last year, the event was held at The Joint, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s 4,000-seat concert and entertainment venue. Mandalay Bay Events Center, a 12,000-seat arena at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, is the home arena for the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.
“We’re opening up the show to a bigger venue, more people, bigger set, bigger stage and we’re really looking forward to this year’s show,” NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said. “The show has become, and grown over the years, more than just handing out awards. We’re really interested in showing our fans how the NHL and our sport is so meaningful in all communities.”