TAMPA, Florida (AP) – The Tampa Bay Lightning’s bid for a three-peat is alive and well.
With the captain Steven Stamkos pioneering, the two-time defending champions 2-1 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday night, securing a spot in the Stanley Cup final for the third consecutive year.
“It will be difficult to get out of the moment and look back and understand what a special group we have here because there are still a few games to play,” said Stamkos. “You are not at the end of our goal yet, but in saying that this group is quite amazing and quite special.”
Stamkos scored two goals and Andrei Vasilevsky had 20 saves for Lightning, who won the 4–2 series, winning four straight games after losing their first two away games, and will face Colorado Avalanche in the Cup final.
Game 1 is Wednesday night in Denver.
“It’s probably not the best word to use, but I’m damn impressed with this group,” said manager Jon Cooper.
“It’s impressive what they’ve done … I’m just impressed with what they do to win a hockey game,” he added. “And the fact that they have every excuse in the world for not winning because no one would blame them saying hey, you won one, you won two and to come back and go for a third. I’m impressed.”
Stamkos put the Lightning ahead forever in the third period just 21 seconds after New York’s Frank Vatrano scored on power play with the Tampa Bay captain in the penalty area for holding.
Nikita Kucherov And Ondrej Palat assisted the winner with more than six minutes to go, with the puck deflected into the net by Stamkos’ knee after the Rangers goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin stopped the initial shot.
Stamkos also scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle midway through the second period.
“Obviously I was a little disappointed in myself for taking the penalty … It’s easy to say now, but for some reason I wasn’t as upset as I usually am in those situations,” said Stamkos. “I was just confident in our group that we would find a way, both in regulation and in extra time. We deserved to win the game. This has been the feeling we’ve had since the discus was thrown. “
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The Lightning are the first team to make three consecutive Cup Final appearances since Edmonton did so from 1983 to 1985. They have been looking to become the first to win three consecutive championships since the New York Islanders have claimed four in a row since 1980. to 1983.
Rangers, down 3–2 in a series for a third consecutive round, were 5–0 in elimination matches this postseason before Saturday night.
The only teams to win multiple elimination games in a single post-season were the 1975 New York Islanders (eight), the 2014 Los Angeles Kings (seven) and the 2003 Minnesota Wild (six).
“It’s difficult right now. But we played well, we fought hard, we had a chance to win all those games, “said Rangers manager Gerard Gallant.” They found a way to get the big goal in the big moment. “
New York lost three of their first four games before winning three straight elimination games by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round. He lost the first two away to Carolina before rebounding to oust the Hurricanes in seven games and reach the Eastern Final.
Saturday night was a different story, with Lightning narrowing New York’s scoring opportunities as they beat Rangers 31–21.
Vasilevskiy traveled long distances without being tested. He only faced seven shots in the first period, six in the second and eight in the third.
Shesterkin, meanwhile, stopped 29 shots on 31 and made a big save after a big save to give New York a chance.
“I thought Igor was great. He gave us the chance to win every night. We have been defeated in many games, but he was exceptional. He’s been our best player all year and still in this series, ”Gallant said.
“Shesterkin was incredible. He made some amazing saves to keep them in, but I think I felt a kind of calming presence because of the group, “Stamkos said.” It was just one of those nights where, whether it was the next round, whether it was me or someone else, it was just the feeling that we would do it. “
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