Ross Colton’s goal was more than enough to seal the deal on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s third Stanley Cup championship in franchise history Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 22 saves in a, 1-0, shutout victory on home ice over the Montréal Canadiens as he became the first goaltender since legendary Canadiens goaltender, Ken Dryden, to play in every playoff game en route to winning back-to-back Stanley Cup rings.
It was also the 5th shutout (6th of his postseason career) for Vasilevskiy this postseason as the Lightning goaltender became the first in league history to win all four series clinching games in a shutout.
He’s also won his last five consecutive playoff series’ in shutout fashion as Tampa shutout the Dallas Stars, 2-0, in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final before going on their 2021 run by shutting out the Florida Panthers, 4-0, in Game 6 of Tampa’s 2021 First Round matchup, eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-0, in Game 5 in the 2021 Second Round and beating the New York Islanders and Canadiens, 1-0, in Game 7 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals and Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, respectively.
Colton was also the fourth rookie to score a Stanley Cup clinching goal since 1927, in Wednesday night’s effort.
The Bolts are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, having won the Cup in 2020 and 2021, as the first repeat champions since the Pittsburgh Penguins did so in 2016 and 2017.
Tampa also did so in a span of about 10 months, since the ongoing global pandemic altered the National Hockey League’s postseason calendar for 2020, and shortened the 2020-21 league calendar to 56 games in the regular season, followed by a postseason that began in May and ended in the first week of July.
Last year, the Lightning raised the Cup as the designated road team at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta at a neutral site as the NHL played through the COVID-19 pandemic in a bubble in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This year, for the first time in 17 years, the Bolts raised the Cup in front of their home fans as 2004 Stanley Cup champion with Tampa, Dave Andreychuk, watched along in attendance to cap the 2020-21 Lightning’s run.
In 2004, NHL on ESPN and NHL on ABC coverage had come to an end with the conclusion of Tampa’s Game 7 victory over the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Final.
The 2004-05 season-long lockout that ultimately canceled all NHL action for the year meant that ESPN could punt their broadcasting rights to the 2005-06 season or opt out altogether.
They chose the latter.
That’s when NBC stepped in and the NHL had games on Outdoor Life Network, then Versus, NBC Sports Network (which shortly rebranded as NBCSN), as well as on NBC.
In 2021, NHL on NBC signed off for the final time as the league shifts its focus back to ESPN/Disney and Turner Sports for the next seven seasons in the United States starting with the 2021-22 season (the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft and first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will be on ESPN2 this month, if you’re wondering).
Back at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, Vasilevskiy (16-7, 1.90 goals-against average, .937 save percentage in 23 games played) made 22 saves on 22 shots against en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs’ Most Valuable Player.
Montréal goaltender, Carey Price (13-9, 2.28 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in 22 games) stopped 29 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.
Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, improved to 9-0 all time in a series when leading 2-0, while the Bolts became the first team to raise the Cup on home ice since Chicago did so in 2015.
Pat Maroon, meanwhile, also became the first player (and fourth overall) since Ed Litzenberger to win three consecutive Cups with two different teams as Litzenberger won with Chicago in 1961, as well as Toronto from 1962-64.
Neither Habs head coach, Dominique Ducharme, nor Cooper, made a change to their lineups for Game 5 on Wednesday.
Alex Killorn remained out of the lineup for the Lightning for fourth game in-a-row after blocking a shot in Game 1. He told reporters after the game that he suffered a broken left fibula in Game 1 and wanted to suit up again if he could play.
Corey Perry kicked things off in Game 5 with a hooking infraction as Perry impeded Mathieu Joseph’s play and presented the Lightning with the game’s first power play at 3:21 of the first period.
Tampa couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.
Moments later, the Canadiens got their first chance on the power play as Jan Rutta cross checked Artturi Lehkonen at 7:19.
Montréal’s time on the advantage was unchanged as Erik Cernak earned an interference minor and Perry was assessed an embellishment infraction almost a minute after Rutta cut a rut to the penalty box at 8:15.
About 30 seconds after Cernak and Perry went to the sin bin, though, Josh Anderson hooked Blake Coleman and joined his teammates in Montréal’s box at 8:43 of the opening frame.
The two teams skated at 4-on-4 for 37 seconds before Tampa had an abbreviated power play thereafter.
Just past the midpoint of the first period, the Bolts were outshooting the Habs, 11-2, with 9:53 remaining in the opening period– reminiscent of how the Lightning outshot the Canadiens, 11-1, through the first half of the first period in Game 4.
Entering the first intermission, the score was still tied, 0-0, despite Tampa outshooting Montréal, 13-4.
The Bolts also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-0), takeaways (2-1) and hits (25-16), while the Habs led in faceoff win percentage (52-48) after one period.
Both teams had three giveaways each while the Canadiens were 0/1 and the Lightning were 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.
David Savard sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play and received an automatic minor 21 seconds into the second period, but the Habs couldn’t score on the resulting power play.
Almost midway through the second frame, Mikhail Sergachev tripped up Nick Suzuki and presented the Canadiens with another power play that went by the wayside at 8:32.
Moments later in Tampa’s attacking zone, Ryan McDonagh made a lateral pass along the blue line to Savard, who promptly crashed the slot and slid a shot pass towards the crease for Colton (4) to redirect into the twine.
Savard (5) and McDonagh (8) had the assists on Colton’s goal as the Lightning took a, 1-0, lead at 13:27 of the second period.
Keeping in the trend with the rest of the series– the team that scored first in each game won the game.
Late in the period, Ben Chiarot yanked Brayden Point down on a breakaway, yielding a power play to the Bolts as a result as Chiarot was assessed with a holding infraction at 19:22.
Though the ensuing skater advantage spanned the end of the second period and the start of the final frame of regulation, the Bolts couldn’t find a way to solve Montréal’s penalty kill.
After 40 minutes of action at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, the Lightning lead the Canadiens, 1-0, on the scoreboard and were outshooting the Habs, 19-14, despite Montréal holding a, 10-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.
Tampa held the lead in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (7-3), giveaways (10-3) and hits (44-35), while the Canadiens led in faceoff win% (54-46).
Both teams were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final period.
Early in the third period, Nikita Kucherov had a great chance to score, but Price stood tall and shut him down while losing his stick and making desperation saves.
Montréal responded with a breakaway as Anderson burst into the zone with tremendous speed, was denied by Vasilevskiy and ultimately crashed back-first into the post and briefly went down the tunnel before returning for the rest of the game.
With 1:51 remaining in the third period, Ducharme pulled Price for an extra attacker, but after a stoppage resulted in neutral zone faceoff, the Habs sent Price back into the crease for a few seconds to ensure a little security between the pipes if they lost the draw.
Montréal won the ensuing faceoff as Price once again sprinted for the bench with 1:36 remaining, but Tampa’s defense was too much for the Canadiens– though the Lightning’s offense couldn’t put an exclamation point on the game with an empty net goal.
The Habs used their timeout with 1:24 remaining as assistant coach, Alex Burrows, tried to rally his players for one last push.
At the final horn, Vasilevskiy and the Bolts earned a, 1-0, shutout in Game 5 and clinched their second-straight Stanley Cup ring in as many years.
Wednesday night marked the third time that Tampa won the Cup in franchise history.
The Bolts also improved to 17-3 all time when scoring first in series-clinching games.
Tampa finished Game 5 leading in shots on goal, 30-22, including an, 11-8, advantage in the third period alone.
The Lightning dominated in just about everything else at the end of the night, leading in giveaways (11-6), hits (56-48) and faceoff win% (52-48), while both teams had nine blocked shots each.
Montréal exited the building 0/3 on the power play, but then again, Tampa also struggled on the skater advantage in the action– going 0/3 on Wednesday night as well.
Tampa finished the 2021 postseason 16-7 overall, while the Habs went 13-9.