2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs: No. 1 seed Lightning swept by Blue Jackets in historic first-round upset
Columbus completed a stunning sweep of the top-ranked Lightning on Tuesday
The Lightning were eliminated from the postseason on Tuesday night in Columbus, swept in four games by the Blue Jackets -- and in pretty emphatic fashion. After taking a 3-0 lead in Game 1, the Blue Jackets rallied back to win 4-3 and they never trailed again in the series. A dramatic 7-3 win on Tuesday closed out the series, making the Lightning the first team in NHL history to win the Presidents' Trophy and get swept in the first round.
Tampa Bay's night got off to a rough start when 19-year-old Blue Jackets rookie Alexandre Texier scored his first career playoff goal just two-and-a-half minutes in to the game. Columbus' Pierre-Luc Dubois doubled the lead just over a minute later, once again forcing Tampa into a dire hole.
The Lightning found some life later in the first period when Steven Stamkos finally scored his first goal of the series. That goal was made possible by an ugly turnover from Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, who coughed up the puck along the boards. Stamkos was able to dangle around a couple of would-be defenders before putting a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky.
After the teams headed into first intermission with Columbus leading 2-1, the Blue Jackets were able to double the lead once again in the middle frame. They claimed a 3-1 lead when Jones ripped a shot from from the point six-and-a-half minutes into the second period -- a gut punch for a Tampa team that looked like it was gaining some momentum.
But the Lightning refused to lay down and they were able to climb back into the game thanks to a goal from Cedric Paquette and, later, their first power play opportunity since Game 2. Brayden Point was able to convert on that power play opportunity, tying the score at 3-3 as the second period neared a close.
However, that equalizer held for less than a minute, as Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand quickly reclaimed the lead when he chipped in a loose, rolling rebound in the Tampa Bay crease.
That goal proved to be the game-winner and series-clincher, as the 4-3 lead held until the final minutes of regulation when Columbus added three empty-netters.
It's an incredibly disappointing finish to the season for the Lightning -- a team that was dominant almost all season long, finished with a record-tying 128 points in the standings and entered the playoffs as the odds-on betting favorites. Tampa Bay and coach Jon Cooper will now have to face questions as to why things fell apart so quickly and in such drastic fashion.
As for the Blue Jackets, they write an incredible underdog story about a team that elected to aggressively go all-in at the trade deadline, only to struggle in the second half and just barely sneak into the playoffs as a wild card. But that shaky finish means nothing now, as they successfully managed to plunge an emphatic dagger into the league's best team to earn the first playoff series win in franchise history.
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