Well, who would have thought it? The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins are on the verge of elimination Sunday after dropping decisions to trail 3-0 in their respective best-of-seven contests. While the New York Islanders finished ahead of Pittsburgh, most pundits thought the Penguins would prevail. As well, most thought that the Lightning would have an easy time with Columbus, especially after finishing the season with an NHL-tying record of 62 wins.
But that has not been the case thus far and both will have to win on Tuesday to extend their series. Tampa Bay still has the talent to do so and will get Nikita Kucherov back from a one-game suspension, but the goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky (for the first time ever in the post-season) has been enough to turn the series in the favor of Columbus. Barry Trotz has the Islanders playing amazing defensive hockey and it looks like the Penguins are going to be on the golf course very soon, barring Sidney Crosby turning the series around for Pittsburgh.
Teams that have a 3-0 lead in Stanley Cup playoff history have won 186-of-190 series. It remains to be seen whether or not the Lightning or the Penguins will become the fifth team to bounce back and win after losing their first three games.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS 4 PITTSBURGH 1
Robin Lehner was outstanding once again as the New York Islanders came into Pittsburgh and knocked off the Penguins to the tune of 4-1 and take a commanding 3-0 lead in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Things got off to a good start for the Penguins as they took a 1-0 lead 12:54 into the first as Garrett Wilson tipped a Marcus Pettersson shot from the point past Lehner. It was the only puck out of 26 shots that would beat the Swedish netminder.
The Islanders came back fast and furious as Jordan Eberle scored 28 seconds later. It was the third straight game that Eberle found the back of the net as the move to the Mathew Barzal line has worked wonders for the former Edmonton Oiler.
There was no scoring in the second period and none until just past the halfway mark of the third period when Leo Komarov stuck a dagger in the backs of Pittsburgh on a pretty pass from Valtteri Filppula and shot it past Murray. Anders Lee iced the game with an empty net goal.
Filppula had a pair of assists to give him three in the three contests.
The Penguins continued to get no scoring from Sidney Crosby as the Pittsburgh captain has yet to pick up a point in three games. Crosby has six shots on net in the series with half coming on Sunday afternoon.
Lehner is a perfect 3-0 and has given up five goals on 103 shots to the Penguins.
Game 4 is Tuesday with the Penguins backs against the wall.
COLUMBUS 3 TAMPA BAY 1
Sergei Bobrovsky was great yet again as he led the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-0 series lead and put the Lightning on the brink of elimination.
Bobrovsky turned aside 30 shots and has been a rock in net for Columbus, the first time in his NHL career that he has excelled in the post-season. Bobrovsky was 5-14 in the post-season entering this season with a GAA just under 4.00 but he has been brilliant in the first three games.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves but it wasn’t enough to stave off defeat.
After a scoreless first period, Matt Duchene opened the scoring at the 1:44 mark of the second with his second goal of the playoffs. Oliver Bjorkstrand with his first of the playoffs, made it 2-0 on the power play and the Blue Jackets went into the dressing room after two periods with the two-goal lead.
Ondrej Palat broke up the shutout bid in the third as he gathered in his own rebound and beat Bobrovsky to cut the lead in half and while the Lightning had plenty of chances the rest of the way, Bobrovsky slammed the door shut on every Tampa Bay chance. Cam Atkinson completed the scoring with 59.9 seconds left in the third with the empty net goal to give him two points on the night.
Erik Cernak had six hits for Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay played without Nikita Kucherov who was suspended in Game 3 for a hit Friday on Markus Nutivaara who suffered an upper-body injury and was unable to go Sunday. Victor Hedman also missed the game with an undisclosed injury.
WINNIPEG 6 ST. LOUIS 3
Kyle Connor scored twice as the Winnipeg Jets got back into the series with a 6-3 win over St. Louis. The Blues still lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 Tuesday in St. Louis.
It was the Blues who grabbed the lead in the first as David Perron with his second of the playoffs, gave St. Louis the edge with 48 seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
But the Jets came out flying in the second and scored all three goals as Kevin Hayes with his first, Laine his third in three games, and Connor on the power play gave Winnipeg a 3-1 lead heading into the third.
Vladimir Tarasenko found the back of the net on the power play for his first of the post-season, to cut the lead to 3-2 but a couple of goals from Brandon Tanev and Byfuglien (who actually caromed a shot of the head of Jordan Binnington from the side of the net into the goal) gave Winnipeg a 5-2 lead.
Alexander Steen made it 5-3 with his first but Connor with his second of the contest, completed the scoring.
Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves and picked up his first win of the 2019 playoffs. Jordan Binnington finally looked human Sunday, making 23 saves on 29 shots as the netminder had been out of this world good before Sunday’s debacle.
Ivan Barbashev had 10 hits for St. Louis.
Andrew Copp had a pair of assists in the win.
VEGAS 6 SAN JOSE 3
It was a big night for the Golden Knights second line as Mark Stone had the hat trick and a pair of assists while Paul Stastny had a pair of goals and five points to lead the Vegas Golden Knights to a 6-3 victory over San Jose and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Max Pacioretty, the third member of the unit, had a goal and an assist to give the line 12 points on the night.
Stone got things started early with his fourth goal of the playoffs at the 16 second mark. Stone leads all scorers with six goals and he is tied with Stastny for the points lead with eight.
Pacioretty made it 2-0 with a power play goal but Kevin Labanc got the Sharks back into the game with his first of the post-season before the end of the first period.
Stastny scored the only two goals of the second period to give Vegas a 4-1 lead heading into the third and Stone’s second goal of the game, 36 seconds into the third made it 5-1.
But the Sharks quickly made it a game as they scored twice in 54 seconds as Logan Couture and Timo Meier lit the lamp, and it was a two-goal game with 14:09 left in the third. But Stone’s third of the game with just over six minutes remaining, completed the scoring to give the Knights the series lead.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves for the win while Martin Jones struggled yet again as he gave up six goals on 40 shots. He was pulled in Game 2 after giving up three goals on seven shots in 6:39 of action.
Shea Theodore had three assists for Vegas.
Mark Stone - 2
Kyle Connor – 2
Paul Stastny – 2
Paul Stastny – 3
Shea Theodore - 3
Andrew Copp - 2
Mark Stone – 2
Shots on Goal
Tomas Hertl – 6
Logan Couture - 5
Vince Dunn - 5
Ryan O'Reilly – 5
Jake Trouba – 5
Kyle Connor – 5
Max Pacioretty - 5
William Carrier - 11
Matt Martin – 10
Ivan Barbashev – 10
Ryan Reaves – 8
Barclay Goodrow - 8
Bryan Rust - 7
Evander Kane – 11
Ryan Reaves - 5
Kevin Labanc - 4
Jay Bouwmeester - 4
Alex Pietrangelo - 4
Adam Pelech – 4
Ryan Callahan - 4