It turns out the Tampa Bay Lightning's historic regular season was all for naught.
The Bolts were in first place for virtually the entire 2018-19 campaign and cruised to the Presidents' Trophy thanks to a dominant 128-point output. Appropriately, Tampa was labeled the favorite to roll over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round and march to the Stanley Cup, but head coach Jon Cooper believes a lack of important games down the stretch did his club in through a stunning first-round sweep.
"When you have the amount of points we had, it's a blessing and a curse in a way, because you don't play, really, any meaningful hockey for a long time and all of the sudden you have to amp it up," Cooper said postgame, according to Sportsnet. "It's not an excuse, it's reality."
Tuesday's defeat marks the latest playoff heartbreak for the Lightning, who had lost in the Stanley Cup Final and two Eastern Conference Finals since 2015 before this year's unfathomable exit.
"We just couldn't find our game, that was it," Cooper said. "It had been with us all year, and for six days in April, we couldn't find it. It's unfortunate because it puts a blemish on what was one hell of a regular season."
The Lightning didn't lose three consecutive games once during the regular season. Dating back to 2018's Eastern Conference Final, they have now lost six straight playoff contests.