Tortorella reflects on sweeping Lightning in 2019: 'We created a monster'

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Three years after his Columbus Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world, John Tortorella remains the last coach to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in a playoff series.

Tortorella's scrappy Blue Jackets squad pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in NHL history in 2019, sweeping the top-seeded Bolts in the opening round following Tampa Bay's 128-point regular season.

The Lightning have won 10 straight series and two Stanley Cups since the loss and are currently battling in the Eastern Conference Final for a chance at a three-peat. Tortorella said he believes Columbus' triumph transformed Tampa Bay into a juggernaut.

"We created a monster," Tortorella told The Athletic's Joe Smith.

He added: "I don't think it was Xs and Os. I think it was a mindset. That (2019) Lightning team was all-world when they came into the playoffs, and I don't think they respected us. Sometimes you've got to eat it, and when you eat it, you might still be stubborn and not want to change anything. They ate it and realized they had to change and play a little differently. They changed some personnel. It's a true credit to their organization that was willing to swallow a little bit and say, 'You know, we've got to change.'"

Tortorella added that the Lightning, who he coached to a Stanley Cup in 2004, started dedicating themselves to a more all-around play style after the Blue Jackets bested them.

"Back then, we felt they were going to play one way. They'd try to beat us offensively," Tortorella said. "They were that good. I don't want to disrespect that team. They were that good. But we just concentrated on basically not giving them odd-man rushes and see if they'd get stubborn."

Tampa Bay has shown its resiliency throughout the 2022 playoffs. The defending champs erased three series deficits to the Toronto Maple Leafs and climbed out of a 0-2 hole against the Rangers in Round 3 with Game 5 set for Thursday.

Tortorella and the Blue Jackets agreed to part ways after six seasons last spring. He's since become an analyst for ESPN and recently interviewed for the Philadelphia Flyers' head coaching vacancy.