NHL

'We couldn't find our game,' says Lightning coach of historic playoff loss

In the aftermath of a stunning ouster in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said his team lost the momentum built during the regular season and never recovered.

Jon Cooper adds team unable to ramp up play after meaningless regular-season games

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper offered no excuses after his team suffered a four-game sweep at the hands of Columbus in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. "It puts a blemish on what was one helluva [62-win] regular season." (Getty Images/File)

In the aftermath of a stunning ouster in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said his team lost the momentum built during the regular season and never recovered.

In just 10 days, the Lightning went from No. 1 to done.

When the season ended April 6, the Lightning had 62 wins, tied for most-ever in NHL history. On Tuesday night, the Lightning were out of the playoffs, outscored 19-8 by the Columbus Blue Jackets in a sweep of the Eastern Conference quarter-final.

"When you have the amount of points we had, it's a blessing and a curse, in a way. You don't play any meaningful hockey for a long time. Then all of a sudden, you have to ramp it up. It's not an excuse. It's reality," Cooper said after Game 4. "That's how it goes. You have a historic regular season, and we had a historic playoff."

Presidents' Trophy winners to lose in 1st round:

  • 1991 Chicago Blackhawks lost to Minnesota 4-2
  • 2000 St. Louis Blues lost to San Jose 4-3
  • 2006 Detroit Red Wings lost to Edmonton 4-2
  • 2009 San Jose Sharks lost to Anaheim 4-2
  • 2010 Washington Capitals lost to Montreal 4-3
  • 2012 Vancouver Canucks lost to Los Angeles 4-1
  • 2019 Tampa Bay Lighnting lost to Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0

The Lightning had 128 points on the season, but when the horn sounded Tuesday to end Game 4 in a 7-3 defeat, none of that mattered. They became the first squad to lead the NHL in points and not win a game in a seven-game, opening-round series.

"If we had the answers, we would have found a way to win a game. It sucks," Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said.

WATCH | Blue Jackets complete 1st-round sweep:

Columbus wins 7-3 for their 1st every playoff series victory. Tampa Bay is swept after tying an NHL record with 62 wins in regular season. 1:56

Special teams struggle

The Lightning never found an answer for Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who had a .932 save percentage. Tampa's goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy had a .856 save percentage and 3.82 goals-against average in the series.

In the regular season, Vasilevskiy posted a .925 save percentage and 2.40 GAA.

The Lightning also converted just one of six power-play chances, and the Blue Jackets went 5-for-10.

Cooper offered no excuses.

"We couldn't find our game. It's that clear. For six days in April, we couldn't find it," Cooper said. "It's unfortunate because it puts a blemish on what was one helluva regular season."

With files from CBC Sports

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