It’s over: Lighting blown out of opening series

by Gary Shelton on April 17, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos didn't score enough in the series./CARMEN MANDATO

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

So, remind me. What was the big deal about these Tampa Bay Lighting?

Sixty-two points? Big deal.

Three 40-goal scorers? So what?

The goaltender who led the league in wins? Double whoopee.

Yeah, these Lightning will always be remembered as being pretty spiffy by those who value regular season victories. But if your expectations include the playoffs, well, you can count the Bolts as one of history's biggest flops.

In their final act, the Lightning was chased from the playoffs in four straight by a pedestrian Columbus Blue Jackets team. Tuesday's final defeat was 7-3, although that included two empty-net goals by Columbus. Still, it was an embarrassing result by a team that had been in the headlines with history for much of the season.

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Point scored a goal for Lightning./CARMEN MANDATO

The Bolts were outscored by Columbus 19-8 over the four-game series.

Columbus scored two goals in the first 3:48 of the game. The Lightning fought back to tie the game at 3-3, but 54 seconds later, the Jackets scored the go-ahead goal.

Columbus added three empty-net goals over the final 1:53 of the game for the 7-3 final.

"I'm probably more disappointed more than anything," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "When you get to the playoffs, you’ve got to remember half the teams in the league are out, so everybody in the playoffs is good. They’ve earned their way here. It’s not, in today’s game with the parity, it’s not unusual that an eight beats a one anymore. Everybody’s that close. In the end, we just couldn’t find our game, that was it. It’d been with us all year and for six days in April we couldn’t find it. It’s unfortunate because it puts a blemish on what was one hell of a regular season.”

Steven Stamkos didn't want to talk about the good regular season.

“We lost in the playoffs," he said. "If you don’t accomplish your goal of winning it all, it’s a failure. We don’t care about what happened in the regular season. We wanted to come in and play well. In the first game, we executed the game plan, get out to a lead and then we couldn’t gain any momentum after that game. We pushed. We didn’t defend well enough as a team in that series.

“I don’t know what to tell you right now. We obviously didn’t have the answer today. They executed obviously a very detailed game plan to slow us down. We didn’t really have that I thought. You’ve got to give them some credit. Everybody’s going to talk about us losing the series, but that’s a good team over there. They did a lot of good things and we just didn’t have an answer.”

What went wrong? What didn't? Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point scored their first points of the series. The penalty kill didn't play well. The defense didn't play well.

Cooper also wondered if the Bolts didn't face enough adversity along the way.

"For us, it’s like when you have the amount of points we had, it’s a blessing and it’s a curse in a way," Cooper said, "because you don’t play really any meaningful hockey for a long time and then all of a sudden you’ve got to amp it up. It’s not an excuse, it’s a reality. That’s how it goes. And so you have a historic regular season the way we did and had basically a historic playoff in defeat. Can’t take away from how battling adversity, all that stuff, our guys battled hard. Columbus, as I said, for six days in April, Columbus played better than we did. That was it.”

Said Ryan Callahan: "They outplayed us in a lot of aspects of that game and for the whole series. Probably did a lot better tonight, bounce here, bounce there may have been a different game. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough top to bottom from our team. Very structured team over there playing to their systems and didn’t waiver and outplayed us for four games.

“I knew it was going to be a tough series, obviously didn’t see this coming. We’re a very confident group after the regular season, confident in our abilities coming into the series. Obviously knew it wasn’t going to be easy against a very hard to play against team, made some key acquisitions at the trade deadline. At the end of the day, you obviously don’t see this coming. We had confidence coming in. We were hoping for a deep playoff run and I sit here now and it’s hard to put into words how you feel.”



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