Sullen and speechless, the Tampa Bay Lightning had little explanation for how they followed up a glorious regular season by getting bounced from the playoffs with record-setting haste.
The host 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.
And what a season it was. Tampa Bay tied the NHL record for wins with 62 and amassed 128 points, fourth best in NHL history.
“Yeah, it sucks,” said Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov, who had 128 points in the regular season but was kept off the scoresheet until Tuesday night.
“Nothing (went) our way in the series,” he said. “I don’t know what to say.”
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 got its first-ever playoff-series win on its fifth try and advances to play the winner of the Boston-Toronto series, which the Maple Leafs lead 2-1.
“It’s a great feeling to finally get one,” Columbus defenseman David Savard said. “The job’s not done. We have to keep going.”
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.
Islanders 3, Penguins 1: New York’s turnaround season is heading to the second round of the playoffs.
Jordan Eberle scored for the fourth straight game, Robin Lehner stopped 32 shots and the visiting Islanders finished off Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh with a clinical win in Game 4 to pull off a stunning sweep.
Josh Bailey set up Brock Nelson’s go-ahead goal late in the first period and added an empty-net score with 38 seconds remaining as the Islanders grabbed the franchise’s second playoff-series victory in 26 years.
Jets 2, Blues 1: Kyle Connor scored 6:02 into overtime and visiting Winnipeg beat St. Louis to tie their best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series at two games apiece.
Mark Scheifele also scored and Connor Hellebuyck made 31 saves for the Jets, who arrived in St. Louis down 2-0. It is the only first-round series in which the home team has failed to win a game.
Game 5 is Thursday night in Winnipeg.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored and Jordan Binnington made 36 saves for the Blues.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Columbus-stuns-Tampa-Bay-for-historic-sweep-13773578.php.