Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins Swept In First Round; Islanders Get Winner of Capitals-Hurricanes Series in Round 2

Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The New York Islanders beat the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 3-1 at PPG Paints Arena to finish their four-game sweep on Tuesday night. Earlier in the evening, the Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off a feat that no one saw coming in sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning, who tied the NHL record with 62 wins in the regular season, after a 7-3 win in Game 4. The Lightning are the fifth team in NHL history to finish with the best record in the regular season and get swept in the First Round.

The Islanders will face the winner of the First Round series between the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes in the Second Round. For the first time since 2015, the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will not feature a Penguins-Capitals matchup. The winner of that series has gone on to win the Stanley Cup in each of the past three seasons.

The Blue Jackets will face the winner of the First Round series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs in the Second Round. With superstars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky approaching unrestricted free agency on July 1, the Blue Jackets acquired center Matt Duchene, center Ryan Dzingel, defenseman Adam McQuaid, and goaltender Keith Kinkaid at the NHL Trade Deadline. All are also eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

The Blue Jackets were the last team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and won a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. During last year’s playoffs, Columbus won the first two games at the Capitals in the First Round, only to drop the next four games of the series. The Blue Jackets have lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions in each of the past two seasons.

The Capitals lead the Hurricanes 2-1 with Game 4 on deck on Thursday night (7 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington). The Maple Leafs lead the Bruins 2-1 with Game 4 slated for Wednesday night (7 PM ET, NBCSN) at Scotiabank Arena.

The Capitals went 2-2-0 against the Islanders this season but lost both games at home — both were shutouts, though one of them came on the final game of the season with the Metropolitan Division locked up. Center Nicklas Backstrom, forward T.J. Oshie, and defenseman John Carlson all sat in the final game as healthy scratches while goaltender Braden Holtby served as the back-up goaltender.

Head coach Barry Trotz, who led the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup championship last Spring, left the team after a contract dispute as he was seeking to become one of the highest-paid coaches in the NHL and the Capitals were not willing to up his contract.

After losing captain and star center John Tavares in free agency, the Islanders were the league’s most surprising teams, posting a record of 48-27-7 and finishing a point behind the Capitals for the division lead. The Islanders went from allowing the most goals in the league (3.57 goals-against per game) in 2017-18 to the fewest (2.33) under Trotz despite the fact that the defensive personnel is mostly if not all the same from last season. Trotz is arguably the favorite for the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL’s coach of the year.

By Harrison Brown


About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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