All posts by Matt Teague

Twitter reacts to Blue Jackets’ sweep of Lightning

The Columbus Blue Jackets completed a stunning four-game, first-round sweep over the historically dominant Tampa Bay Lightning in front of a raucous home crowd on Tuesday night.

While those inside Nationwide Arena reacted with hugs and cheers, many onlookers chimed in on social media to offer their takes on perhaps the biggest postseason upset in NHL history.

Many simply expressed their disbelief:

Some - including the Blue Jackets themselves - couldn't wait to crack jokes at the Lightning's expense:

And after Columbus went all-in at the trade deadline, many were just happy to see the Blue Jackets' efforts pay off with the franchise's first-ever playoff series win:

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Islanders ride hot goaltending to sweep of Penguins

The New York Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-1 victory on Tuesday night.

The win marked the Islanders' first sweep since 1983 and just their second series victory over the last 25 seasons.

New York stifled the Penguins with its physical play from the start of Game 1 and received excellent goaltending from likely Vezina Trophy candidate Robin Lehner, who posted a .956 save percentage for the series.

The Islanders managed to control the middle of the ice, smothering the Penguins' attack and ultimately nullifying the impact of their star-studded forward group. Through four games, Pittsburgh's core four of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Jake Guentzel combined for just three goals and seven points.

"We didn't execute well and made a few more mistakes than they did. Personally, I've got to be better," Crosby said following the loss. "It's disappointing for how well we finished the year and the things we played through to get into this position."

Though Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn't upset by his team's overall effort, he pinned their downfall on a failure to execute in key situations.

"When you look at the nature of the games and the way they were played, it was a whole lot closer than the optics," Sullivan said, according to wtae.com's Andrew Stockey. "Every game, for that matter, was a one-goal game ... it boils down to critical moments."

Kessel, who has 303 points over four regular seasons in Pittsburgh, has been in mentioned in previous trade speculation and was asked about his future with the club after the loss.

"That’s a tough question to start," Kessel said, according to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I don't know at this point. We'll see how it goes this summer."

It's the second time the Penguins have been swept in the Crosby-Malkin era after falling to the Boston Bruins in four games in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final.

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Sharks’ Kane: Mocking Thornton shows Reaves’ lack of ‘hockey IQ’

San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane doesn't think Ryan Reaves has any business mocking 21-year veteran Joe Thornton.

Kane came to his teammate's defense Tuesday, firing back at Reaves for the Vegas Golden Knights enforcer's jokes targeting Thornton's age and subsequent waning vision.

"To chirp Jumbo's vision, a guy who has over 1,000 assists, that doesn't seem too bright," Kane said according to The Athletic's Kevin Kurz. "One of the best passers and best guys with vision on the ice to ever play the game. Just shows a lot about his hockey knowledge and hockey IQ. Clearly, it's lacking."

Thornton ranks eighth on the NHL's all-time assists list with 1,065 helpers and has put together a Hall of Fame career.

Kane and Reaves exchanged blows with two minutes to play in Game 3, a 6-3 Vegas victory. After defending his teammate, the Sharks' pesky winger turned to his own personal feud with Reaves.

"For the so-called toughest guy in the league, I don't know if he landed a punch," Kane said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Adam HIll. "At times I thought I was fighting the Muffin Man. Didn't expect that, I expected more of a battle."

Kane took a shot at Reaves' on-ice ability as well, belittling his fourth-line status.

"For a guy who plays three-and-a-half minutes a night, he sure does a lot of talking," Kane said. "I think he thinks it's the WWE. He's probably going to end up there pretty soon with the way his game looks. Another year left on his deal. I'm sure Vince McMahon will be giving him a call pretty soon."

The Golden Knights hold a 2-1 advantage in the opening-round series and will look to push the Sharks to the brink with a victory at home in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

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Kings hire Todd McLellan as head coach

The Los Angeles Kings hired Todd McLellan to be their next head coach, the team announced Tuesday.

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports the deal is for five years and is worth around $25 million depending on bonuses.

McLellan began the 2018-19 season as bench boss of the Edmonton Oilers but was relieved of his duties on Nov. 20 after the team got off to a 9-10-1 record.

The 51-year-old enjoyed his greatest success in San Jose, coaching the Sharks to the playoffs in six of his seven seasons with the club, including back-to-back conference final appearances in 2010 and 2011.

McLellan has international experience on his resume as well, coaching the Canadian national team to a perfect 10-0 record and a gold medal at the 2015 World Championship.

The Kings fired John Stevens as head coach on Nov. 4 after a 4-8-1 start to the 2018-19 campaign and have had Willie Desjardins fill the role on an interim basis since.

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Capitals leave offense at home in Game 3 loss to Hurricanes

"You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."

Wayne Gretzky's famous adage was on full display Monday when the Washington Capitals were shut out by the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-0, in Game 3 of their first-round series.

The Capitals were dominated from start to finish and were outshot in all three periods, including an 18-1 count in the second frame - their only shot on goal in a span of just over 40 minutes. The single effort set a franchise record for fewest in a period for a road playoff game, according to NHL.com's Tom Gulitti.

With 4:51 remaining in the third period, the Hurricanes held a shot advantage of 42-11. They heavily controlled the possession game as well, out-attempting the Capitals 51-28 at even strength on the night.

Following the game, Capitals star center Nicklas Backstrom called his team's performance "completely unacceptable," according to NBCS Washington's Brian McNally. In total, nine Capitals were held without a shot on the night.

"They were on a different level than we were tonight," head coach Todd Reirden said postgame, according to McNally.

The win marked the Hurricanes' first in the postseason since May 14, 2009.

Washington still holds a 2-1 series lead and will look to bring a stronger effort in Game 4 on Thursday.

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Sharks’ Thornton suspended 1 game for hit to head of Golden Knights’ Nosek

San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton was suspended one game on Monday for his illegal check to the head of Vegas Golden Knights forward Tomas Nosek, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced.

The hit took place with just over three minutes left in the second period of Game 3. Thornton was handed a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head on the play.

Nosek appeared to be shaken up after the hit but stayed in the game.

Thornton has been suspended just once over his 21-year NHL career. He was handed a two-game ban in 2010 for a controversial hit to the head of St.Louis Blues forward David Perron.

The 39-year-old Thornton recorded his third point of the series on Kevin Labanc's first-period tally in Game 3.

San Jose faces a 2-1 series deficit entering Game 4 at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas on Tuesday.

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Lightning remain positive amid 3-0 hole: ‘We’re still alive’

The league-best Tampa Bay Lightning are officially on the brink.

The Presidents' Trophy winners find themselves staring down a 3-0 deficit in their opening-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets after dropping Game 3 by a score of 3-1. Despite this, Lightning head coach John Cooper sees a silver lining.

"There was a lot of positive energy in that room after the third period," Cooper said after the game, according to FOX Sports Florida. "Adversity hits in different ways and we haven't had a lot of it during the regular season and we have it now. We had adversity going into the third period and I thought we responded well and we've just got to carry that on.

"As far as I know, we're playing Tuesday, right? So, we're still alive."

After a lackluster opening 40 minutes, the Lightning outshot the Blue Jackets 17-8 in the third period. Team captain Steven Stamkos alluded to that as a possible turning point while preaching a one-game-at-a-time mentality.

"We pushed. We pushed hard. If anything, maybe we found a recipe to break some of their structure there," Stamkos said, according to Bryan Burns of the Lightning's official site. "Obviously, it wasn't good enough.

"We've got to win a game, just win a game, get it back to Tampa," he said. "It's tough right now, but we just have to find a way. There's nothing to save it for right now. We just have to win the next game and see where it takes us."

The Lightning - who tied the NHL record with 62 wins this season - are the first team to win the Presidents' Trophy and go down 3-0 in a first-round series since the Vancouver Canucks in 2012. Only four teams in history have recovered from such a deficit, with the last being the 2014 Los Angeles Kings, who went on to capture the Stanley Cup.

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Jets bounce back with Game 3 victory over Blues

ST. LOUIS (AP) Kyle Connor and the Winnipeg Jets got back on track by sticking to the same way they wanted to play all along.

Connor scored twice, Patrik Laine had a goal and an assist, and the Jets beat the St. Louis Blues 6-3 on Sunday night to climb back into their first-round playoff series.

Winnipeg dropped the first two games at home. But they were one-goal games, and Connor felt the Jets just needed a few minor tweaks.

Looked pretty good in St. Louis.

''As a whole, we played the right way for (the first) two games,'' Connor said. ''Tonight, it was nice to have everyone contribute.''

Kevin Hayes, Brandon Tanev and Dustin Byfuglien also scored for Winnipeg, and Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves.

Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in St. Louis.

''We're building every shift, every game throughout the series,'' Connor said. ''We're getting close to our game and it's pretty dangerous.''

David Perron, Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen scored for the Blues, and Jordan Binnington made 23 stops.

Perron put St. Louis in front with a power-play goal late in the first period. He whipped a shot past Hellebuyck from the slot.

But the Jets grabbed the lead for good when they scored three times in a span of 4:01 in the second.

Hayes started the blitz with a shot from the point that went through traffic before slipping past Binnington. Laine then scored his third goal of the series, converting a pass from Jacob Trouba.

Connor capped the blitz with a power-play wrist shot from the faceoff dot at 8:58. He added an insurance goal 14:44 into the final period.

''It was just a matter of time,'' Hayes said. ''It's a start.''

St. Louis had a chance in the third, pulling within one when Tarasenko scored a power-play goal just 1:51 into the period. But Tanev and Byfuglien responded for Winnipeg, running its lead back out to 5-2 with 11:54 left.

''Tonight was not really our team, obviously,'' Perron said ''We weren't happy with our effort. We didn't play a good game. But we've got to give them credit.''

Laine, who had 30 goals and 20 assists in the regular season, has scored in all three playoff games. He had just one goal in his last 19 regular-season games.

Laine scored five goals in an 8-4 win in St. Louis on Nov. 24, 2018.

''We just stayed within our game and tried to play it simple,'' Laine said. ''We got going and just tried to keep our foot on the gas the whole 60 (minutes).''

Hellebuyck made a big stop on Pat Maroon just seconds before Tanev's goal.

Binnington made a trio of saves in the opening 5:45 to keep the game scoreless. He denied Bryan Little, Hayes, and Mathieu Perrault. Binnington stopped 50 of 54 shots over the first two games.

''The biggest thing is we didn't play our game tonight,'' Tarasenko said. ''It was not our best game out there. It's on us, and we'll handle it tomorrow.''

NOTES: Blues D Robert Bortuzzo suffered a cut on his hand that required seven stitches in the third period of Game 2, but played on Sunday. ... Winnipeg is 1-10 in playoff games decided by one goal, including a 1-4 mark last season. ... The Blues failed on their first seven power-play attempts in the series prior to Perron's first-period goal. ... The Jets were the last team in the playoffs to record a third-period goal.

UP NEXT

Game 4 of the series is set for Tuesday night in St. Louis.

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Leafs’ Kadri to have in-person hearing for Game 2 cross-check

For the second postseason in a row, Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri will be hearing from the Department of Player Safety.

The 28-year-old has been offered an in-person hearing, which gives the league the option to suspend him for six games or more.

Kadri caught Boston Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk with a cross-check to the head with around six minutes remaining in the third period of Game 2. He was handed a five-minute major for cross-checking and a 10-minute match penalty.

DeBrusk didn't play another shift and commented about the hit after the contest.

"It's up to the league to decide, to be honest. I got no comment. I did a series of tests. I'm just hoping they come back negative. It's all kind of a blur, to be honest. From what I remember, it was high. I felt it in my face," DeBrusk said, according to Sportsnet's Luke Fox.

Kadri was not made available to the media following the game.

The center has a long history of supplemental discipline, including a three-game suspension against the Bruins in the 2018 playoffs for boarding forward Tommy Wingels.

Before his ejection, Kadri scored the lone goal in the contest for the Maple Leafs. The Bruins picked up the 4-1 victory to even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

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Stamkos: Lightning ‘learned a lesson’ after coughing up 3-goal lead

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was searching for positives after witnessing his team fail to close out Game 1 of its first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

The Lightning took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission only to have the Blue Jackets storm back with four unanswered goals to steal the game. Despite the disappointment, Stamkos says the defeat was a learning experience that players can benefit from.

"We got a 3-0 lead at home in the playoffs, that should be done and over with. If anything we learned a lesson tonight. We’ll be a lot better," Stamkos said according to Lightning beat reporter Caley Chelios.

Tampa Bay scored a league-high 325 goals this season and looked well on its way to a blowout victory in front of an electric home crowd. Following the contest, head coach John Cooper admitted the Lightning veered away from their game plan after gaining the lead early on.

"Our mentality was we wanted to outscore them instead of build the lead and shut them down," Cooper said.

The Lightning boasted a 31-1-2 record during the regular season when leading after the first period.

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