TAMPA, Fla. — Ten groups over the final three years have tried to remove the Tampa Bay Lightning in the postseason as they’ve pursued a dynasty. They tried in the 2020 bubble, they tried in Canada, in North Carolina, throughout the state of Florida and on the islands of New York, however all of them failed.
Since 2019, nobody had discovered a method to unseat a group that made its method to the pinnacle, till Sunday, when the Colorado Avalanche found the proper mixture of ability, pace and dedication wanted to knock out the champ.
For the first time since the onset of the pandemic, the N.H.L. has a brand new champion. The high-flying Avalanche defeated the Lightning, 2-1, in Game 6 of the finals, to seize the Stanley Cup, certainly one of sports activities’ most elusive and enduring trophies.
One by one in the postgame celebration, the Avalanche gamers held the gleaming Cup aloft, kissing it as they paraded it round the Amalie Arena ice, simply as the Lightning had completed on the identical rink, their residence rink, the year earlier than.
It is the third title for the Colorado franchise, and its first since 2001, when Joe Sakic was the group’s captain. Sakic, who additionally performed seven seasons with the group earlier than its transfer from Quebec, was readily available as soon as once more to share in the newest celebration, this time as the normal supervisor and architect of a membership so deep in expertise that it meant Tampa Bay had lastly met its match.
Cale Makar, the dazzling, 23-year-old defenseman, performed at a excessive degree, with eight objectives and 29 factors. But different very good gamers, like middle Nathan MacKinnon, wing Mikko Rantanen, the gritty ahead Nazem Kadri and wing Gabriel Landeskog, the captain, all performed a task in wresting the Stanley Cup away from Tampa Bay’s cussed grip.
The Lightning have been hoping to develop into the first group to win three Stanley Cups in a row since the Islanders gained 4 consecutive titles from 1980 to 1983. But engaging in such a process is a take a look at of endurance: The magnificent goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, and skaters a part of the group’s core group of stars like defenseman Victor Hedman, wing Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, have been enjoying of their 68th high-intensity recreation in a postseason sequence starting with the 2020 playoffs, which have been performed in so-called bubbles in Canada due to the pandemic.
The Lightning had performed extra video games than another group over the previous three years, keeping off elimination in 4 video games over that span, and after three years of fixed psychological and bodily pounding, they lastly gave method to a brand new champion.
In 2020, the Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, a impartial website with out followers, and final year, they beat the Montreal Canadiens.
This year, they grew to become the first group since these early-Eighties Islanders to attain a 3rd consecutive last sequence, however Colorado was the better of the 10 groups the Lightning have performed in the previous three postseasons (together with the Islanders and the Florida Panthers twice every).
Sakic, who has proved to be practically as adept at making a winner from the entrance office as he was with skates on his ft and a stick in his hand, is accountable for constructing a group that has been widely known for a number of years as certainly one of the rising powerhouses in the league. But that got here solely after Colorado missed the playoffs six occasions in seven years, from 2011 to 2017.
Those have been grim years for N.H.L. hockey in Denver, however Colorado’s entrance office, led since 2013 by Sakic, added proficient gamers every year. Many of them got here in through excessive draft picks, thanks to all these dropping seasons. Landeskog was taken with the second total choose in 2011. MacKinnon was tabbed with the first choose two years later and Colorado chosen Rantanen with the tenth choose in 2015. In 2017, that they had the good sense to take Makar at No. 4 and two years after that they added defenseman Bowen Byram, additionally with a No. 4 choose.
With these homegrown gamers, plus key additions over the years like Kadri defenseman Devon Toews and wing Andre Burakovsky by trades, and wing Valeri Nichushkin by free company, Colorado climbed into rivalry. Last year, the Avalanche gained the Presidents’ Trophy, given to the group with the finest common season document. But till now, the group was unable to convert common season success into playoff glory, falling in the second spherical in every of the earlier three years.
This season, with Makar breaking out to win the Norris Trophy as the league’s finest defenseman and the 31-year-old Kadri establishing a career excessive with 87 factors, the Avalanche set franchise data for wins (56) and factors (119) and most necessary, carried that dominance into the playoffs with a 16-4 document.
From coaching camp, the question for the Avalanche surrounded the group’s potential to overcome previous failure and eventually win a title. That was examined in the finals, as the Avalanche lost Game 5 at residence and confronted the prospect of changing into solely the second group out of 37 to lose in the finals after taking a 3-1 sequence lead.
But in Game 6 the Avalanche confirmed some championship resolve of their very own.
The Lightning scored first on a objective by Steven Stamkos, the group captain, who wheeled round in entrance the objective and slipped the puck between the pads of Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper. The Lightning held that lead till MacKinnon evened the rating on a one-time shot to the proper of Vasilevskiy simply 1 minute and 54 seconds into the second interval, stifling the cheers of the crowd.
Minutes later, Artturi Lehkonen, who joined the Avalanche in a commerce Sakic made in March with Montreal, scored to give Colorado its first lead of the recreation, inching the group nearer to its first Stanley Cup celebration since Sakic held the trophy aloft as a participant, 21 years in the past.
In the third interval, the more energizing legs of the youthful Avalanche compelled the puck to keep inside the Tampa Bay finish for lengthy stretches, offering additional proof that the time had lastly arrived to crown a brand new champion.