|4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET23:00 GMT7:00 4:00 PM MST6:00 PM EST3:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ET20:00 BRT, April 10, 2019
Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida Attendance: 19,092
NHL-best Lightning start over vs. Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning
- Tampa Bay has won all six meetings since the start of last season, including three shutouts by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Each team had 21 power-play chances in that span - the Lightning scored eight goals and the Blue Jackets had none. The Lightning won the three matchups this season by a combined 17-3 score.
- Columbus is the only NHL team which has never won a playoff series, but head coach John Tortorella led Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup title in 2003-04. The Blue Jackets' 5-16-0 all-time record in the playoffs is the worst in league history, and no team has a worse penalty kill in the playoffs (71.0 percent) since they joined the league in 2000-01.
- Besides the Lightning's average of 3.89 goals per game this season being the highest by any team in the past 20 years, their 36 games with 5+ goals were eight more than any other team in that span. Over the last five seasons, Tampa Bay is 109-0-0 when scoring 5+ goals (including postseason), and the only other team without a loss is the second-year Golden Knights (35-0-0).
- Sergei Bobrovsky's 3.49 career goals-against average in the playoffs is the worst among all active goaltenders with at least five playoff starts. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner has allowed at least three goals in 12 straight playoff starts, the worst such streak since the Kings' Kelly Hrudey did so in 16 straight between 1991 and '93.
- Nikita Kucherov is nine points shy of Martin St. Louis' franchise record of 68 career playoff points even though he's failed to record one in 28 of his 62 postseason games. Kucherov recorded a point in 62 of 82 games this season, and the Lightning went 54-5-3, compared to 8-11-1 when he was held off the scoresheet.
- Since the Lightning came into existence in 1992-93, their 9-14 record in playoff Game 1s is the worst of any Eastern Conference team (minimum five Game 1s).
- Caps try to close out series at Carolina
- Stars look to oust Predators in Game 6
- Sharks edge Vegas in 2OT to force Game 7
- Bruins win in Toronto to force Game 7
- Capitals' Oshie likely out for playoffs
The Tampa Bay Lightning rolled through the 2018-19 season on the way to a Presidents' Trophy-winning campaign, but the real work starts now.
The team begins a best-of-seven series in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night at Amalie Arena.
Tampa Bay, which won the 2004 Stanley Cup over the Calgary Flames, has been a rock-solid fortress on home ice this season, sporting a 32-7-2 record.
The team's overall 62-16-4 record matched the NHL single-season record for victories, set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, who fell in the conference finals to the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche in six games.
The Lightning enter the postseason with some incredible numbers.
Nikita Kucherov established a record for the most points ever scored by a Russian-born player. His 128-point total was one better than Alexander Mogilny's mark set in 1992-93.
Captain Steven Stamkos tallied 45 goals while Kucherov and Brayden Point each produced 41 to scale the 40-goal plateau, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy led the league in wins (39) and notched six shutouts.
However, that means little now, and only the Lightning's overall success against the Blue Jackets probably matters at all in the postseason -- Tampa Bay won all three meetings in overwhelming fashion, outscoring Columbus 17-3.
Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Victor Hedman was a full participant in Monday's practice after missing the past four games with an upper-body injury, but fellow rear guard Anton Stralman and right winger Ryan Callahan remain out.
"He looked good," coach Jon Cooper said of Hedman. "Just the mere fact to have him out there was nice. He hadn't been on the ice with the team in a while. It's looking encouraging."
The Blue Jackets (47-31-4) finished fifth in the Metropolitan Division, but their two-game winning streak on the final weekend put them two points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for the second wild card spot and just one point out of the first position held by the Carolina Hurricanes.
While the Blue Jackets have had no success against Tampa Bay this season and have never won a postseason series in franchise history, they were 25-14-2 on the road this year.
They also possess a pair of difference-makers in left winger Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, both of whom are unrestricted free agents and likely will be lost by the Blue Jackets on July 1.
Panarin scored a team-best 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) and had eight game-winning markers in 79 games, and Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, authored a league-high nine shutouts and was second in wins (37) to Vasilevskiy.
The two Russian stars will need to be in top form if coach John Tortorella's group hopes to take down the NHL's juggernaut, but center Pierre-Luc Dubois feels the team is in a good spot as it enters its third consecutive playoff appearance.
"We've been playing really well this last stretch of games," Dubois said. "We won seven of eight to finish the season. We feel good about ourselves, and come playoffs, everything starts at zero."
--Field Level Media
Updated April 9, 2019