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NHL-best Lightning ousted in record speed by Columbus

AP

The Tampa Bay Lightning ended up on the wrong side of NHL history, getting swept in the first round of the playoffs after one of the best regular seasons ever.

The 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 in NHL history.

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 won its first-ever playoff series in its fifth try and advances to play the winner of the Boston-Toronto series, which the Maple Leafs lead 2-1.

“It was a great series,” wing Josh Anderson said. “That’s the way we want to play.”

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.

Rookie Alexandre Texier, who was brought over after his season ended in the Finnish league, scored his first NHL goal and later added one of the empty-netters. Pierre Luc-Dubois had a goal and a pair of assists.

A dozen different players scored for Columbus in the series.

Steven Stamkos, Cedric Paquette and Brayden Point scored for Tampa Bay, which never led in this elimination game.

Islanders sweep Penguins

In Pittsburgh, Jordan Eberle scored for the fourth straight game, Robin Lehner stopped 32 shots and New York finished off Sidney Crosby and the Penguins with a clinical 3-1 win in Game 4 on Tuesday night 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 easily captured the franchise’s second playoff series victory in 26 years.

The Islanders trailed for less than five minutes across four games against the Penguins, whose 13th straight postseason appearance ended quietly. Pittsburgh managed just six goals in the series, including Jake Guentzel’s first of the playoffs 35 seconds into the game.

It wasn’t nearly enough to stop the Islanders. New York allowed the fewest goals in the league during the regular season, and then backed it up with 12-plus periods of sound hockey that’s quickly become their calling card under first-year coach Barry Trotz, who led the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup last season.

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