The Columbus Blue Jackets completed a first-round sweep of the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning with a 7-3 victory at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday.
It was the first series victory for the franchise.
Tampa Bay entered the playoffs as the heavy favourites to take home the Stanley Cup as they had one of the best regular seasons ever. But, they were shockingly overpowered by Columbus in one of the biggest upsets in NHL history.
The Lightning tied the league record for the most wins in a season, averaged 3.96 goals per game – the highest mark since 1996 – and tallied 30 road victories.
Almost everyone expected the Lightning to play deep into the postseason. Instead, they were sent home after four games.
Lightning make wrong kind of history
A Presidents' Trophy winner had never been swept in the first round. Until Tuesday.
The NHL's best regular-season team have now lost seven times in their opening series. But, the Lightning are the first to not secure at least one win. The 2011-12 Vancouver Canucks came the closest to matching Tampa Bay’s poor performance – as noted by the New York Times – as they were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings in five games.
The Lightning held a 3-0 lead over the Blue Jackets after the first period of game one. From that point on, they were outscored 19-5.
Blue Jackets answer at the right time in game four
The Lightning played from behind for most of the first two periods on Tuesday.
Alexandre Texier put Columbus ahead less than three minutes into the game and Pierre-Luc Dubois followed with a goal about a minute later to make the score 2-0. Steven Stamkos answered with a score of his own to half Tampa Bay’s deficit before Seth Jones found the back of the net in the second period to widen Columbus' lead to 3-1.
Over the next 11 minutes, however, the Lightning appeared to shift momentum back in their favour and they pulled even on a Brayden Point goal with about two minutes to play in the period.
But, less than a minute later, Oliver Bjorkstrand delivered for the Blue Jackets. He corralled a rebound and sent the puck into the back of the net to send his team into intermission with the lead.
The Blue Jackets held on from there and added three empty-netters to seal the sweep.
Bobrovsky was huge for Blue Jackets in the third
Tampa Bay were on the attack for the entire third period.
Trailing by a goal with the season on the line, the Lightning turned up their offensive pressure and consistently attacked the Blue Jackets net.
Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task. The Lightning had multiple strong opportunities in the final 20 minutes, yet Bobrovsky stopped them all.
Bobrovsky struggled in the first period of the series but bounced back in a major way to help his team pull off the major upset. He finished with 30 saves in the clincher.