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National media blasts Lightning after historic collapse

Was this the worst playoff meltdown ever? In the immediate aftermath, the rest of the country thinks so.

You likely don’t need a reminder of what happened Tuesday night.

After tying the record for the most NHL wins in the regular season, the Lightning finished its 2018-19 campaign with as many playoff wins as the last-place Ottawa Senators did. A little over a week after the Lightning was being discussed as being the greatest NHL team ever assembled, it crashed out of the playoffs in historic fashion.

It didn’t take long for the national media to blast the Lightning.

Here’s what they’re saying.

Deadspin: The Lightning Should Spend The Entire Summer With Paper Bags On Their Heads

Never has an NHL team had more reason to be embarrassed. First period of Game 1 aside, the Tampa Bay Lightning who won 62 games in the regular season failed to show up in their first-round series against the tremendously underestimated Columbus Blue Jackets, and they paid the price. As the Lightning’s biggest stars either struggled to make an impact or actively harmed their team’s chances at winning, their opponents grabbed a hardware store’s worth of brooms and swept Tampa out of the postseason. Tonight Columbus completed perhaps the biggest upset in NHL playoff history by winning Game 4, 7-3, to advance to the second round.

That final score is brutal and humiliating, but it doesn’t really explain the true nature of the game. Toward the end of the opening period, for the first time since their 3-0 lead early in Game 1, the Lightning had something positive happen to them. The Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in Game 4′s first four minutes, and later on in the opening period, they almost made it 3-1 on a Cam Atkinson goal. However, the call was reversed on an offsides challenge because the puck just barely left the attacking zone, and that brought the game back to a more manageable 2-1 Tampa Bay hole.

Read the rest of Lauren Theisen’s article here.

ESPN: Ousted Lightning victims of own success

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be defined by their failure, swept out of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round by a Columbus Blue Jackets team that few thought had a prayer of hanging with the Presidents’ Trophy winners.

That's one way to look at them.

Here’s the spin the Lightning had after Tuesday night’s stunning 7-3 defeat in Game 4 of the first round: They were victims of their own success.

The Lightning had 128 points in the regular season, with a points percentage of .780, the second-highest rate for an 82-game season in NHL history, behind only the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (.799). They tied that Red Wings team with 62 wins, the most recorded in the 100-plus-year history of NHL hockey. They clinched a playoff spot after just 68 games and were coasting well before reaching that mark. They weren’t just winning — they were crushing opponents. They had the league’s best power play and best penalty kill, and they were the highest-scoring team on average (3.89) since Detroit in that 1995-96 season. Of their 62 wins, 30 were by a margin of three or more goals, which was tied for the most since 1992-93.

It all came so easily for Tampa Bay — until it didn’t.

Read the rest of Greg Wyshynski’s article here.

New York Times: Who Owns the Worst Playoff Meltdown? It Almost Has to Be the Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning were almost unstoppable this season, racing to 62 wins in 82 games and the best point total since the N.H.L.’s current system began in 2006.

The Lightning scored 103 more goals than they surrendered, powered by Steven Stamkos’s 45. Other stars of the deep team were Nikita Kucherov, who led the league in points (120) and assists (87); and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was a rock in goal.

“It’s one of the best I’ve ever played with,” said Stamkos, an 11-year veteran, when asked to evaluate his team in January. “I have no concerns about us taking our foot off the gas.”

But that’s exactly what happened. The Lightning were swept in their best-of-seven series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it was not even close. Tampa Bay was outscored by 19-8 over four games. Stamkos and Kucherov had been held pointless heading into Tuesday’s series finale, and a slight reawakening from the stars was not nearly enough to stave off a 7-3 defeat that ended their season.

There is a case to be made that the Lightning are the biggest playoff underachievers in sports history. While there have been big playoff busts before, has a team this good ever performed so badly?

Read the rest of Victor Mather’s article here.

USA Today: How we screwed up in picking the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup

The unthinkable has happened. The Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of a league-high 62 games, have fallen in the first round to the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that made several all-in trades and finally started to jell late in the season. Columbus defeated Tampa Bay in four games, with the Lightning’s only glimmer of hope quickly squashed when they blew a three-goal lead in Game 1.

So, what the heck happened? USA TODAY Sports’ NHL staff tries to reflect on what it got wrong about the Lightning, a team it unanimously predicted to win the Stanley Cup.

Read Kevin Allen, Jimmy Hascup, Mike Brehm and Jace Evans’ explanations here.

Washington Post: Did the Lightning just complete the most pitiful playoff performance in sports history? There’s a case.

Maybe they choked, maybe they were outplayed or maybe it was a little bit of both but the Tampa Bay Lightning, this year’s Presidents’ Trophy winner with an NHL record-tying 62 wins during the regular season, were swept out of the playoffs in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

You could place the blame in a number of areas but the reality is Tampa Bay became the fifth team in NHL history to finish with the league’s best regular season record and get swept in their opening round playoff series, joining the 1920-21 Toronto St. Patricks, 1923-24 Ottawa Senators, 1928-29 Montreal Canadiens and 1937-38 Boston Bruins in this infamous group.

Read the rest of Neil Greenberg’s article here.