Home Hockey Lightning Will Attempt a Third Straight Stanley Cup Against the Avalanche

Lightning Will Attempt a Third Straight Stanley Cup Against the Avalanche


Irrespective of the game, profitable back-to-back championships titles is uncommon as a result of it’s so arduous. Accidents, egos, contract calls for and the N.H.L. wage cap usually derail second title runs.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, although, are near engaging in one thing much more tough: Profitable three Stanley Cups in a row. The 2-time champions beat the New York Rangers, 2-1, to win the Jap Convention finals on Saturday and can return to the Stanley Cup Finals, the place they’ll face the Colorado Avalanche beginning Wednesday in Denver.

No group has been to a few straight Stanley Cup Finals because the Edmonton Oilers groups led by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier within the mid-Eighties, and the Islanders had been the final group to win three straight Cups after they received 4 consecutive titles 40 years in the past between 1980 and 1984.

The Lightning could not get the nationwide consideration of a few of the golf equipment within the league’s greater markets, or its Canadian groups. They play in Tampa, a Florida vacationer vacation spot the place one other star named Tom Brady, quarterback for the Buccaneers, grabs a lot of the sporting headlines.

However quietly and empathically the Lightning have built a dynasty beneath coach Jon Cooper and their captain, Steven Stamkos, who has been the core of the group’s success. Now 32, the middle from suburban Toronto has performed his whole 14-year profession in Tampa and helped construct an also-ran right into a perennial contender.

With 522 profession targets, together with playoffs, he trails solely two guys named Ovechkin and Crosby amongst lively gamers. He’s additionally been the glue that has helped hold his high-flying teammates collectively, together with linemates Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. Tampa’s roster consists of gamers with a mixed 204 playoff video games, essentially the most of any group.

Stamkos added to his already stellar profession when he scored the Lightning’s two targets, together with the game-winner late within the third interval Saturday, to complete off the Rangers.

“It’s great to score a couple of goals in a huge game like this, but if I didn’t score and we won, I would have been just as happy,” he mentioned after the sport.

Stamkos has scored 9 targets thus far within the playoffs, however the Lightning received the collection in convincing style by dominating the Rangers in practically each aspect of the sport. Tampa overcame a two-game deficit and received the final 4 video games of the collection, outscoring the Rangers 12-5. The Lightning dedicated few errors, which stored the Rangers’ top-ranked energy play off the ice. The younger Rangers, within the playoffs for the primary time in 5 seasons, failed to attain at even energy within the final 4 video games of the collection.

On Saturday, the rating and the pictures on objective had been deceivingly shut, and the statistics would have been extra lopsided if not for the good play of Rangers’ goalie Igor Shesterkin. The Lightning had way more high quality scoring probabilities, and the Rangers, who had received all 5 elimination video games through the playoffs, appeared deflated after a disheartening loss in Recreation 5 in New York on Thursday.

Whereas Shesterkin desperately tried to maintain the Rangers within the recreation, his counterpart, Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, was hardly examined. He stopped 20 pictures and received his eighth consecutive clinching recreation, six of which had been shutouts.

Tampa has now received 11 straight playoff collection, one thing Cooper attributed to the continued drive of his gamers.

“No one would fault them” if the gamers let up, he mentioned. “Hey, you’ve won one, you won two, and to come back and go for a third.”

The Lightning beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven video games within the first spherical and swept the Florida Panthers after that. Then the Rangers broadsided them within the first two video games of the collection in New York.

However the Lightning confirmed why and the way they hold profitable championships. They discovered their footing when the collection moved to Tampa, improved with every recreation and had been the far sharper group on Saturday. They skated rapidly, made crisp passes and scooped up errant passes by the Rangers. They dominated the primary interval, trying 25 pictures whereas the Rangers managed solely 12.

Shesterkin held Tampa at bay, even cleansing up his personal mess. After an try and clear the puck was intercepted by Riley Nash of the Lightning, he stopped a tip-in by Patrick Maroon. He used his proper pad to cease a tip-in try by Pierre-Édouard Bellemare and denied Anthony Cirelli on a breakaway.

Within the second interval, Shesterkin robbed Kucherov, Tampa’s prime scorer, when he tried to backhand the puck previous him.

However after all of the frantic stops by Shesterkin, Tampa scored after Stamkos raced previous an injured Ryan Strome and fired a wrist shot from the highest of the circle.

The Rangers lastly had an influence play likelihood within the third interval when Corey Perry hit Filip Chytil within the face with a stick. Tampa blocked all the Rangers pictures.

The Rangers lastly scored on one other energy play when Stamkos was referred to as for holding and Frank Vatrano fired a shot off a face-off that skidded previous Vasilevskiy.

No matter momentum the Rangers gained vanished 21 seconds later. Stamkos, popping out of the penalty field, raced towards the web, took a cross from Kucherov and shot the puck. Shesterkin grabbed it together with his glove, however the puck ricocheted out and Stamkos’s leg bumped it into the web. After a overview, the objective stood.

Now Tampa will face the Avalanche, who’ve had loads of time to ponder their subsequent opponent. They completed off the Edmonton Oilers within the Western Convention finals practically every week in the past. They had been the very best group within the West the common season with 119 factors, they usually’re 12-2 thus far within the playoffs, together with sweeps of the Nashville Predators and the Oilers.

Colorado has allowed simply 40 targets to Tampa’s 41, however the Avalanche rating significantly extra usually, main all groups with 65 targets to the Lightning’s 52.

They’re led by Nathan MacKinnon, the quick artistic heart, and defenseman Cale Makar, whom Wayne Gretzky lately referred to as the very best two-way participant since Bobby Orr.

Colorado received their two video games towards Tampa this season, by one objective every time. However they may be without Nazem Kadri and Andrew Cogliano, each who’ve injured fingers. It is usually unclear whether or not goalie Darcy Kuemper will begin Recreation 1.

The Rangers may have all summer season to heal their accidents and take into consideration how they blew a two-game lead towards the defending Stanley Cup champions. Gerard Gallant, the Rangers coach, mentioned his group’s grueling schedule — 20 playoff video games in 40 days — wore down his membership.

The sting of a Stanley Cup run ending too quickly will endure.

“I’m empty,” mentioned Rangers heart Mika Zibanejad, who then paused a very long time. “I don’t want it to be over.”

Cooper, the Lightning coach, can’t consider that’s it not for his group.

“When you’re growing up in Canada you always dream about having your name on the Stanley Cup,” he mentioned. “And to get there the first time, it was a dream come true. To get there a second time the next year was like a dream, like there’s no way we’re going back. And to go a third time is unthinkable.”

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