COLUMBUS-- In one of the league's most stunning upsets ever, the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-3 on Tuesday night, completing a four game sweep of the team that won the league's Presidents' Trophy.
At the opening puck-drop, Columbus was playing their first game in franchise history where they had an opportunity to eliminate a team. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay started the night having been outscored 11 to two in the last eight periods of the series. And after their defenseman Ryan McDonagh was called for slashing less than a minute into the game, Tampa Bay fell behind again for the third straight game when Columbus Alexandre Texier snapped a wrist shot, from the top of the right circle, past Tampa Bay Andrei Vasilevskiy for the power play goal. The goal by the rookie center was Columbus' fifth power play goal of the series.
The Blue Jackets lead became two goals less than 90 seconds after their power play goal opened the scoring when they took advantage of a bounce off the boards after a shot by forward Oliver Bjorkstrand was scooped up by Pierre-Luc Dubois. And from the left of net, the Blue Jackets center shot the puck off Vasilevskiy & into the net for an even strength goal.
The Lightning did not get their first shot on net in the game until nearly six minutes were gone in the first period. The shot came from Nikita Kucherov, who missed the previous game because of a one game league suspension.
Trailing 2-0, the Lightning needed offense from their leading scoring & Kucherov did just that when he, along with new linemate center Anthony Cirelli helped set-up Steven Stamkos. On an offensive rush, the Lightning captain took a pass from Cirelli & patiently waited while one Blue Jackets defender slid down & ripped a shot high past Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for his first goal of the series.
With the benefit of two power plays in the first period, the Blue Jackets outshot the Lightning 8-7 in the first 20 minutes. And neither team registered a shot on net in the first three minutes of the period. But six minutes into the middle period, the Blue Jackets grabbed another two goal lead. After some strong board work the puck made it back to defenseman Seth Jones , who skated inside the blue line & powered a slap shot past Vasilevskiy to make the score 3-1.
With the game nearly halfway over, facing a two goal deficit & the end of their season, the Lightning were able to make the deficit one goal again. Planted in front of the Blue Jackets net, center Cedric Paquette tipped in a high shot from the point by defenseman Braydon Coburn that trickled past Bobrovsky. And after Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski was called for a cross-check on Kucherov, the Lightning, who had did not have a man advantage in Game Three, were able to tie the game at three. After the Lightning were able to control the puck in their offensive zone, the pressure in the zone led to Stamkos hitting center Brayden Point with a pass & the center skated between two Blue Jackets & lifted a backhand over Bobrovsky for his first goal of the series.
After blowing a two goal lead, it took Columbus just 54 seconds to take the lead again. After a delayed penalty was being called on forward Mathieu Joseph, Columbus gained the zone & after controlling the puck for nearly 30 seconds, Bjorkstrand, who was standing at the side of the net, jammed home a loose puck to make the score 4-3.
The Lighting recorded one more shot on net than the Blue Jackets in the second period. And desperate to get the tying goal, the Lightning got quality chances throughout the third period & forced Bobrovsky to make game changing saves, including point blank stops on Kucherov, Point & Cirelli. Bobrovsky was able to shut the Lightning out in the final period & his team sealed the win with three empty net goals, the first scored by forward Artemi Panarin when Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper pulled Vasilevskiy with two minutes left in the game.
The loss completes the four game sweep & ends the Lightning season that included 62 wins & a league-best goal +103 differential. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets will play the winner of the Toronto vs Boston series.
1. CLS- PPG- Texier 1st goal (Jones, Dubois)- 2:26
2. CLS- Dubois 1st goal (Bjorkstrand, Clendening)- 3:48
3. TBL- Stamkos 1st goal (Kucherov, Cirelli)- 8:44
1. CLS- Jones 2nd goal (Atkinson, Duchene)- 6:28
2. TBL- Paquette 1st goal (Coburn, Rutta)- 13:03
3. TBL- PPG- Point 1st goal (Stamkos, Kucherov)- 17:52
4. CLS- Bjorkstrand 2nd goal (Harrington, Dubois)- 18:46
1. CLS- EN- Panarin 2nd goal (Unassisted)- 18:07
2. CLS- EN- Texier 2nd goal (Unassisted)- 18:26
3. CLS- EN- Duchene 2nd goal (Savard, Harrington)- 19:51
1. TBL- McDonagh (Slashing 2 Mins)- 00:45
2. TBL- Kucherov (Trippng 2 Mins)- 11:18
1. CLS- Werenski (Cross-checing 2 Mins)- 16:43