The Lightning first steps onto the set in a 2-0 Game 6 victory over the Stars, winning the 2020 Stanley Cup (0:41)
Brayden Point scored his 14th playoff goal, and the Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 on Monday to win the Stanley Cup and complete the most unusual NHL playoffs in history, almost entirely in quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic Nonetheless, the zeros on the clock in an empty arena sparked a happy celebration for a team that endured years of playoff grief and two months of isolation.
« It takes a lot to be in a bubble for 80 days or however long, » said defenseman Victor Hedman, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP « But it’s worth it now We’re coming home with the cup »
The very talented Lightning, one of the best teams in the league not to win the title in the past five years, has finally completed the complicated puzzle of the Stanley Cup playoffs, winning their first championship since 2004 They defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets; the Boston Bruins, the No. 1 league team in the regular season; and the New York Islanders before taking out the Stars in a marathon through two Canadian bubble venues that featured several overtime and plenty of drama
Goals from Point and Blake Coleman and a 22-save shutout from Andrei Vasilevskiy in Game 6 were enough to propel the Lightning past a Stars team that remained alive with a double overtime victory on Saturday in the fifth match
« This last period was probably the longest of my life, » Hedman said just before winning the MVP « There are so many emotions at the same time »
In 2004, the Lightning won the title with the league on the verge of a work stoppage, a lockout that wiped out an entire season The franchise is used to winning with the uncertainty that hangs around the league.
Questions about next season, however, have been postponed to a celebration by the Lightning and the NHL Making it sort of a triumph, despite financial problems The NHL is the first of the four major professional sports leagues in the North. Americans to crown a champion since the start of the pandemic
Center group Tampa Bay closed the final with an almost poetic display of what got the Lightning to this point in recent years and months Their new star at Point scored a power-play goal in the first half with assists from Nikita Kucherov and Hedman, the key addition Coleman killed a penalty and scored on a strange man run in the second, and Vasilevskiy did its job on a relatively slow net night
It was more of a crowning glory than a challenge, as the dominant Lightning beat the Stars 29-22 and looked like the power they have been for much of the past decade.
“The beauty of our team is that everyone is involved,” Point said. “We have incredible depth We have received contributions from everyone at different times, and that’s what makes this win so special «
In the final, the Tampa Bay power play smacked and toppled the streak Point’s goal made 7 for 16 in the last five games to decimate the Stars, who were defeated by their lack of discipline and couldn’t get enough « Dobby » magic from goalkeeper Anton Khudobin
Stars ran out of gas after injury racked Rick Bowness, a five-year Tampa Bay assistant who was part of the team’s 2015 race that failed in the final, faces a future uncertain as interim coach
“I couldn’t ask for more from our players,” said Bowness “So it wasn’t enough to beat this team so it wasn’t enough But it’s better than sitting here to say how we could have done this or could have done [that] We do not question what we did «
The Lightning did to the Stars what Chicago did to them in the 2015 Finals, when injuries racked up Tampa Bay had the point and not Second center Anthony Cirelli was playing injured this time, had not injured the captain Steven Stamkos for almost every playoff – and still survived
« These last six weeks have been very emotional for my family and I, not only on the ice but off the ice, » said Stamkos, who only played 2 minutes and 37 seconds in the playoffs, but scored a goal in the third game « I just want to say to my family: I love you guys so much To all friends and everyone who has supported us along the way: We love you We can’t wait to celebrate with you »
Painful playoff losses now look like mile markers – losing three straight games to Chicago after a 2-1 comeback, beating the series-lead 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016 and 2018 and last season’s jaw-dropping first – sweep by Columbus after the Lightning tied the NHL’s one-season winning record and won the Presidents’ Trophy
Coach Jon Cooper thought the attitude needed to change and not want to beat all opponents 9-0 because it’s unrealistic in the playoffs His team went 12-3 in one-goal playoff games, and he said the Lightning won because they were made stronger by years of ‘heartache’
« Coming back year after year and taking our swings, taking our licks and being seen here as the kids who are going to be here every year – and now we’re talking about the team that can’t do it – and you know what? We did it, « Cooper said » And it wasn’t without failures along the way «
Commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand to present the Lightning with the Stanley Cup exactly 200 days after his dismal but hopeful announcement the season would be put on hiatus with 189 games to go
The league and players’ union have worked for almost four months to figure out where, how and when to play so that 2020 does not join 1919 and 2004 as a year the Cup was not awarded. they worked out was unusual Like the NBA, he called for isolating teams from the public for months Contrary to the NBA’s plan, he called for doing so at two locations, Toronto and Edmonton, while the US struggled with coronavirus cases in too many places for NHL leaders to feel comfortable
It worked After more than 31,000 tests, there were no cases of positive coronavirus reported among players, coaches and staff inside the bubbles and just a handful among employees at hotels, arenas or restaurants There was nothing near an epidemic
As bizarre as it was without fans and noise from crowds and light shows, hockey was often top notch The expanded 24-team playoffs meant there was hockey almost every day, sometimes at noon past midnight, including a five-overtime marathon that was the second longest game in modern hockey history In this unprecedented playoffs, there were two playoff games on the same day in the same arena
By the end of the conference, Rogers Place, a nearby JW Marriott, and the rest of a heavily fenced bubble in downtown Edmonton had become the hub of fan hockey thousands of miles away, with Dallas and Tampa Bay, two of the southernmost teams in the league, set the Cup in the NHL’s northernmost arena
In all, the NHL played 130 games in a bubble, including 25 in overtime, before the final honk sparked a celebration in Tampa Bay that was to be enough with no supporters in the stands and few loved ones on the ice to share the moment Players hugged and pulled out their phones to call and video chat with those who couldn’t be there
“We were in the bubble for those many days away from our friends and family, our support systems,” Stamkos said “We love every single person who has helped us and allowed us to come here and make our dream come true »
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