Fare thee well, Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. We hardly knew ye.
Here’s what happened in the NHL last night (check out replays of every playoff game on ESPN+), and what to watch for tonight, in today’s edition of ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily:
About last night…
Game 4: Columbus Blue Jackets 7, Tampa Bay Lightning 3. (Blue Jackets win series, 4-0). If you go by Vegas odds, the Washington Capitals’ loss to No. 8 seed Montreal in 2010 was technically the bigger upset, but it’s the manner in which the Blue Jackets dispatched the Lightning that makes this one of the most shocking series results in Stanley Cup playoff history: a four-game sweep. The final score was inflated by a few empty netters, because this was a one-goal game for most of the third period.
To the Lightning’s credit, their stars finally showed up. But that was after Columbus built a 2-0 lead just 3:48 into the game. The soul-crushing moment of Game 4: Oliver Bjorkstrand’s goal on a delayed penalty with 1:14 left in the second period, coming 54 seconds after Brayden Point tied the game. The team that tied the NHL record for most wins in a season, eliminated in four straight games. “If you don’t accomplish the goal of winning it all, it’s a failure. We don’t care about what happened in the regular season,” said Steven Stamkos.
Game 4: New York Islanders 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 1. (Islanders win series, 4-0). It took four games, but Sidney Crosby finally earned a point in this series, assisting on Jake Guentzel’s goal just 35 seconds into a do-or-die Game 4.
That would be the only goal the Penguins would score, as once again the Islanders’ combination of stingy team defense, solid goaltending from Robin Lehner (32 saves) and timely scoring never gave the Penguins even a hint of momentum during the game — like when Jordan Eberle answered the Pittsburgh goal just 1:34 later, his fourth goal of the series. The Islanders are in the second round of the playoffs for just the second time in 26 years. And they didn’t need John Tavares to do it.
Game 4: Winnipeg Jets 2, St. Louis Blues 1 (OT). (Series tied 2-2). If the question was whether Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington could bounce back from a subpar effort in Game 3, the answer is yes: He stopped 37 shots and was solid. If the question was whether Winnipeg could do what the Blues did to them and take two games on the road, the answer was also yes: Thanks to 31 saves from Connor Hellebuyck and clutch goals from Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor, who had the overtime game-winner, this series is now deadlocked.
Game 4: Vegas Golden Knights 5, San Jose Sharks 0. (Knights lead series 3-1). The Sharks are in deep trouble, as the Knights have a chance to knock them out of the playoffs for the second straight season. Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves, Max Pacioretty had two goals and two assists, and the Knights once again jumped on the Sharks early and didn’t look back. Martin Jones was pulled again after allowing two goals on seven shots in the first period. “He’s gotta be better. Both the goalies gotta be better,” said coach Peter DeBoer. “You can’t put this all on the goalies, you have to score, too.” The Sharks, who were missing center Joe Thornton due to suspension, have now been outscored 16-6 in their three straight losses to Vegas.
1. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets. His crease-crashing goal tied the game at 7:33 of the third period, and his shot-rebound-pass sequence in overtime resulted in a layup goal for Connor. That was all the offense the Jets needed to muster to beat Jordan Binnington and the Blues.
2. Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights. His four-point game (two goals, two assists) set a new career playoff high for the winger. Pacioretty’s goal at 1:11 of the first period was also the 10th time in 18 games the Golden Knights scored in the first five minutes against the Sharks.
3. Robin Lehner, New York Islanders and Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets (tie). We don’t usually do ties here, but we’ll make an exception for the two backbones of their teams’ respective first-round sweeps. Bobrovsky gets some extra credit for shattering the narrative that he’s a leaky playoff goalie, posting a .932 save percentage for the series. Meanwhile, Lehner’s rocking a .956.
Play of the Night
It took four games — well, six if you track it back to last postseason — but Steven Stamkos didn’t leave the postseason without a little goal-scoring wizardry, deking through the Columbus defense.
Dud of the Night
Martin Jones. The biggest vulnerability for the Sharks entering this series was goaltending, and it remains that was after four games. He’s rocking a playoffs-worst .838 save percentage, having been pulled twice in the series.
On the schedule
Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 4, 7 p.m. ET (Leafs lead series, 2-1)
Toronto tries to build on its impressive Game 3 win — again without Nazem Kadri — while the Bruins seek to do what they did in Game 2 to beguile them.
Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars, Game 4, 8 p.m. ET (Predators lead, 2-1)
In this goalie duel, Pekka Rinne (.936) has been slightly better than Ben Bishop (.931), while the Predators’ offense (2.33 goals per game) has been slightly better than that of the Stars (2.00).
Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche, Game 4, 10 p.m. ET (Avalanche lead, 2-1)
Hey, the lowest wild card in the Eastern Conference just took out the top seed, so anything can happen. Especially when the Avs have been rolling in the last two games, as Nathan MacKinnon has three goals in three games.
Social post of the day
A tribute to teammate Kyle Connor from amateur Photoshop artist Matt Hendricks. We’ll let you suss out the acronym.
“I had beers poured on me!” — John Tortorella on the Blue Jackets’ bench celebration when they scored their (first) empty-netter.
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