LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Brayden Point scored a powerplay goal and Andrei Vasilevskiy blocked 22 shots for a shutout as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 on Monday (Sept 28) to capture their second Stanley Cup championship.
The win erases years of close calls and underachieving performances in the postseason for the Lightning, who won the series four games to two and claimed their first NHL title since 2004.
“We had a lot of confidence in our group,” said Canadian forward Point. “We worked so hard and played our system so well. We weren’t thinking about anything, but the game ahead of us.”
There was no panic from Tampa Bay in a dominating game six performance, even though they were coming off a gruelling double overtime loss to Dallas in game five on Saturday night.
Captain Steven Stamkos accepted the Stanley Cup trophy from league commissioner Gary Bettman on the ice. Stamkos was injured and unable to play in the final game, but he did get in five shifts earlier in the series and even scored a goal.
“I am so proud of this team and everything we have accomplished. I am speechless. It’s magical to be part of this,” Canadian Stamkos said.
Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman was named the most valuable player of the playoffs. Hedman finished with 10 goals and 11 assists in the postseason.
“It is a dream come true. The best thing I have ever experienced in my hockey career,” said Hedman.
Blake Coleman scored the other goal for the Lightning, who stormed out the gates and outshot the Stars heavily in the first two periods of game six in front of an almost empty Rogers Place stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Lightning’s title run culminated an unprecedented 11-month 2019-20 season that was suspended on March 12 due to the Covid-19 pandemic before resuming on August 1 in a quarantine bubble in Edmonton and Toronto, Canada.
Despite being one of the league’s most consistent winning franchises over the past few years, the Lightning have a reputation of coming up short in the postseason.
Tampa Bay were in the finals for the first time since 2012, when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
They were heavy favourites to win the Stanley Cup in 2019 but were unceremoniously swept in the first round in four straight by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“Sometimes in failure you find success,” Tampa coach Jon Cooper said. “It doesn’t come easy. I truly believe the heartbreak we suffered brought us here today.”
This time history was on their side, as the Lightning have never lost a series in which they have held a 3-1 lead, including all three previous rounds this year.
Point opened the scoring on the powerplay at 12:23 of the first period for Tampa Bay.
Point took a shot, got his own rebound and fired the puck high over the glove of Stars goalie Anton Khudobin. It was Point’s 14th goal of the playoffs.
“The beauty of our team is everyone stepped up. We had a tremendous determination. That is what makes this so special,” Point said.
Coleman scored on a blistering one-timer just over seven minutes into the second period to make it 2-0 for Tampa Bay.
The play started with a faceoff in the Tampa end and a lucky bounce off the foot of the referee for the Lightning that gave them a quick possession of the puck.
Patrick Maroon carried the puck over the Stars’ blue line and passed to Cedric Paquette, who found a wide open Coleman with a perfect cross-ice pass.
Khudobin made 27 saves in game six. He took over in the first round of the playoffs from Dallas’ No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop, who went down due to an injury.
“There’s no feelings right now,” Khudobin said. “Just ended, you know?
“We battled hard, especially with the situation. It’s not easy to stay without families for two months, stuff like that.
“We stick together, we stick to each other. But right now, there’s nothing.”
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