Tampa Bay Lightning playoff hopes come to an end in 7-3 loss to Columbus

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 16: Members of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Tampa Bay Lightning shake hands after Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus defeated Tampa Bay 7-3 to win the series 4-0. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 16: Members of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Tampa Bay Lightning shake hands after Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 16, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus defeated Tampa Bay 7-3 to win the series 4-0. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning will head back to Tampa empty-handed as they exit the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 7-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves in quite a predicament as they made their way into the Nationwide Arena for Game 4. After an emotionless and lackluster performance in the first three games of the series, the Lightning found themselves on the precipice of elimination.

The night definitely got off on the wrong foot for the Lightning. Just 45 seconds into the game, Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh would make his way to the sin bin for two minutes for Slashing against Oliver Bjorkstrand. This penalty proved the Blue Jackets knew how to play the game. The Lightning would definitely need to be mindful of this moving forward.

Regrettably for the Lightning, this was only the beginning of what would turn out to be a painful first period of hockey. There were 20 seconds left in the penalty to McDonagh when Blue Jackets forward Alexandre Texier would pick up his first goal of the postseason to give Columbus the early lead.

One would think the Lightning would use the frustration that’s been building all series long to come back and get into the game. Sadly, this was not the case. In fact, quite the opposite is what came to fruition.

A mere minute and 22 seconds after the goal from Texier, the Blue Jackets would strike once again. This time it would be Pierre-Luc Dubois who would get his first of the postseason to extend the Lightning deficit to two. Much like the last eight periods of hockey, the Lightning would find themselves in an uphill battle.

Thankfully, the Lightning decided not to back down from this particular fight. At 8:44 in the period, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos picked up his first goal of the postseason to cut the Lightning’s deficit to a lone goal. The assists on the captain’s goal would go to Nikita Kucherov (1) and Anthony Cirelli (1).

Lightning fans almost felt like they’d been kicked in the throat shortly after the Stamkos goal. The Bolts found themselves on the Penalty Kill once again as Nikita Kucherov made his way to the sin bin for Tripping against Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson.

The Blue Jackets would strike while they had the man advantage with a goal from Cam Atkinson. Well…at least everyone thought they scored. Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper did something out of the ordinary for him and challenged the call on the ice due to offsides.

Just when one thought things couldn’t possibly get any stranger, not only did a challenge go the Lightning’s way (the goal was recalled as it was deemed to be offsides) but Coach Cooper showed some serious emotion following the call. The negative ninny in us wants to say, “Where has this emotion been all series long,” but the part of me that’s in the moment said, “Come on, guys! Let’s build on this!”

The Lightning did an excellent job of dictating the narrative in the final minutes of the first 20 minutes of play. They were far more aggressive with the puck and actually showed signs of the team we’ve been blessed to watch the entire regular season.

Despite being seriously outshot in the first half of the period, the Lightning made up a lot of ground in the back half of the period and ended up being outshot by one lone shot on goal. The Lightning would need to use this newly found momentum to their advantage in the Second Period if they had any real hopes of staying alive.

Regrettably, it would once again be the Blue Jackets who would strike first in the second period. This time, it would be defenseman Seth Jones who would pick up his second goal of the postseason to extend the Lightning deficit to three goals. Once again, the Lightning found themselves in a serious uphill battle.

At this point, the Lightning wasn’t quite ready to pack things up and head back to Tampa with their tails between their legs. Just around the 13-minute mark in the period, Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn would fire a shot at Sergei Bobrovsky and after a slight re-direct from Cedric Paquette, the Lightning would make this a one-goal game once again.

A little bit past the 16-minute mark in the second period, the Lightning would get their first Power Play opportunity of the night as Zach Werenski was sent to the sin bin for Cross Checking against Nikita Kucherov. Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets would get a two-for-one on this one as Anthony Cirelli was shaken up after getting nailed by the end of Werenski’s stick.

The Lightning would make the most of the rare Power Play opportunity bestowed upon them and tie the game for the first time of the night. Bolts forward Brayden Point would pick up his first goal of the postseason with assists from Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

Unfortunately, the celebration would be short-lived for the Lightning. Less than a minute later, with a Delayed Penalty coming the way of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Columbus Blue Jackets would retake the lead with a goal from Oliver Bjorkstrand.

This is definitely one of those goals Andrei Vasilevskiy is going to want back. After Vasy committed to a block on the left side of the goal, a loose puck would find its way to the right side and Bjorkstrand had the presence of mind to put it in the back of the net.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

When the buzzer sounded to end the second period of play, the Lightning would trail the Blue Jackets by the score of 4-3. Surprisingly enough, the Lightning would outshoot the Blue Jackets 13-12 in the second period for a two-period total of 20 shots each. Things were also split down the middle in the faceoff circle, with each side winning 50 percent of the faceoffs.

Much like they have for most of the series, the Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves chasing the Blue Jackets with 20 minutes left in the period. The stakes are much higher than they have been in the last three games. If the Lightning pulled off a win, the series would be headed back to Tampa for Game 5. Fail to secure a victory, and the Lightning would be facing down one of the most unceremonious First Round exits in history.

Unfortunately, the latter would wind up being the case for the Tampa Bay Lightning and their fans. There were just under two minutes left in the game when Coach Cooper would pull Andrei Vasilevskiy in order to get an extra attacker on the ice. What else could he do? His team was down by one with less than two minutes left?

Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin showed the Lightning exactly why this was a bad idea as he scored an empty-net goal to extend their lead over the Lightning to two goals. Less than 20 seconds later, Columbus would strike once again with a goal from Alexandre Texier.

Adding insult to an already devastating injury, the Columbus BIue Jackets would make it 7-3 with a whole nine seconds left in the game thanks to a goal from Matt Duchene, who picked up his third goal of the postseason.

When the buzzer sounded to end what became a painful series for Lightning fans, the Tampa Bay Lightning would exit the First Round in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 7-3 loss. Everyone here in the Bolts Nation seemed to be in a perpetual state of shock.

Final. 3. 23. 7. 113

How does a team go from dominating the entire National Hockey League throughout the regular season, breaking records every time they turned around, and capturing their first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history to a team who was absolutely decimated in the very first round of the postseason?

There are a lot of questions that will make their way to light over the next couple of days. The one thing we know for sure is changes need to be made. In almost every situation in life, things start at the top and make their way down. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out as the Lightning heads into the off-season.

The situation may seem a little different after a good night of sleep and some time to truly process what just happened, but there is one thing that will remain true. The painful sting of this loss is going to linger for quite some time.

Despite the horrendous ending to the postseason, the Tampa Bay Lightning took fans on a wild and crazy ride this season. The 2018-19 season has been one of the most memorable seasons the team and their fans have seen in quite some time. The ending may not have been the one fans wanted, but the sun will come out again.

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It’s going to be a long, hard couple months between now and October. Come what may, we here at Bolts By The Bay will continue to Be The Thunder and will be anxiously awaiting the start of the 2019-20 season.