Blue Jackets will play Lightning in Eastern Conference First Round

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The Columbus Blue Jackets will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Columbus, which eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in a Stanley Cup Qualifier series, will be the No. 7 seed. Tampa Bay, which was 2-0-1 in the round-robin portion of the qualifiers, is the No. 2 seed.

It will be a rematch of the Eastern Conference First Round from last season, when the No. 8-seeded Blue Jackets swept the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Lightning.

“Like most playoff runs, it’s about your group,” Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “It’s about your team. It’s not as much about your opponent. It comes down to execution and will and playing hard for one another and playing for each other, sticking to the structure here. That’s the mindset we wanted to get here.”

Tampa Bay won the only game between the teams in the regular season, 2-1 in overtime on Feb. 10. Nikita Kucherov scored two goals, and Brayden Point had two assists. Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney made 31 saves. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored for Columbus, and Elvis Merzlikins made 28 saves.

This will be the second playoff series between the Blue Jackets and Lightning.

Columbus qualified for the playoffs for a fourth straight season; Tampa Bay has qualified in each of the past three seasons. The best-of-7 series will be played at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the hub city for the Eastern Conference.

NHL.com staff writer Amalie Benjamin contributed to this report

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