NHL-best Lightning ousted in record speed by Columbus

2019 Lightning overtake 2012 Canucks for the worst playoff result for a Presidents' Trophy winner

Top-line shakeup: Lightning rookie Cirelli centring Kucherov, Stamkos

The front page of the Columbus Dispatch's sports section a day after the Lightning lost game four to the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-3.

The second worst team in the playoffs by the odds smoked them in four games. NY posted the franchise's best regular-season record in 35 years by limiting chances and relying heavily on Trotz's system that preaches pragmatism and patience. They weren't just winning - they were crushing opponents.

Particularly McDonagh, Callahan and Girardi who were all such loyal servants for the Rangers, with the trio racking up 1,754 games between them in NY.

Ondrej Palat cut the deficit in half less than five minutes into the final frame and would come close down the stretch, firing 17 shots on goal in the 3rd period, but Cam Atkinson would bury an empty-netter with a minute to go to seal the deal and secure the victory for the Blue Jackets. The amount of squandered money in Tampa Bay's books is concerning.

Columbus Blue Jackets fans are ready to break out the brooms...only it'll have to be metaphorically and not literally. I don't care if you love hockey or not. It's not an excuse. Fellow defenceman Anton Stralman (lower-body injury) is also out while forward Alex Killorn (undisclosed) is a game-time decision. "That's how it goes: You have a historic regular season, and we had a historic playoff". Coach Jon Cooper just signed a contract extension.

Tampa Bay captured the Presidents' Trophy after finishing with a 62-16-4 record during the regular season, while Nikita Kucherov scored the most points since the salary cap was instituted, but its profound success didn't translate against a red-hot Columbus squad.

Guentzel found space in the slot and ripped a shot past Lehner 35 seconds into the game for the first goal of the series by Pittsburgh's top line. The Blue Jackets exposed the Lightning, and now Tampa Bay has the summer to reorient. The Blue Jackets came out with speed and energy in the next two games that the Lightning could never match. The Jackets had 30 takeaways in four games, while Tampa Bay had 21. Anthony Cirelli has 5 points over the last 10 games for Tampa Bay. "We have to keep going".

Prior to the series, it was reasoned that if the Blue Jackets were to have any chance against the juggernaut Lightning, Sergei Bobrovsky would need to outduel his countryman, Andrei Vasilevskiy. Even when the Lightning broke through the Columbus defense, Bobrovsky made key saves. Jordan Eberle scored for the fourth straight game and Brock Nelson scored the eventual go-ahead goal at the end of the first period.

Perhaps the biggest disparity was on special teams.

So what the Lightning are going to have to do is accurately put a value on their players, then swallow hard and make some difficult decisions. They were playing a team, however, that was short-handed the fewest times in the regular season. When McDonagh used his stick like a scythe on Oliver Bjorkstrand, it gave the Blue Jackets an early power-play opportunity that would quickly put the Lightning in the familiar position of trailing. This isn't the ending we imagined, and certainly not the one we wanted.

Jets 2, Blues 1 - Kyle Connor scored 6:02 into overtime as visiting Winnipeg beat St. Louis to tie their best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series at two games apiece.

Although he faced a much larger volume of shots throughout the series, Bobrovsky posted a sparkling.931 save percentage and completely suppressed Tampa Bay's league-best attack, making it almost impossible for his opponent to mount a comeback in the latter three games.

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