Tampa Bay Advances to their 3rd Straight Stanley Cup Final
After trailing two games to none, the Lightning beat the New York Rangers, which may have been one of their hardest challenges that they have faced over the past three postseasons. Thanks to some late game heroics in Game 6, they are now headed to their third consecutive Stanley Cup final following their 2-1 victory at Amalie Arena’s last night.
The Lightning have become the first franchise since the Oilers to advance to the Stanley Cup final over three consecutive seasons (1983-85).
Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals will be at Ball Arena Wednesday vs the Western Conference champion Colorado Avalanche, who just swept the Oilers.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Lightning were down 2-0 in this series, but they stuck with the strategy that has won them two consecutive Stanley Cups — playing defensive-minded hockey, executing the forecheck, protecting the puck, and dictating the tempo of the game with continuous O-zone time.
The Lightning may have needed a few games to regain their playoff footing after a nine-day break after sweeping the Panthers in the second round, but a Rangers team that had already played two Game 7s this postseason showed signs of fatigue on Saturday night.
In his last eight series-clinching games, Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy has yielded only two goals while stopping 20 of 21 shots.
In even-strength play, the Lightning dominated possession, forcing the Rangers to chase the puck all night. Even when New York knotted the game on a power-play goal by Frank Vatrano with 6:53 remaining in the third, the Lightning remained confident.
Twenty-one seconds after Vatrano’s goal, Steven Stamkos answered with his second of the game after receiving Nikita Kucherov’s assist on a 2-on-1, Stamkos redirected his own soaring shot into the net.
Stamkos scored the first goal with 9:17 remaining in the second period, when he fired a wrist shot from above the right circle past Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin’s blocker side.
Shesterkin kept the Rangers in the game throughout the night with a series of outstanding saves.
Late in the second period, Alex Killorn had a close-in charge on Shesterkin that was disallowed, and Kucherov was also denied by Shesterkin in the period. Brandon Hagel set up Anthony Cirelli with an open look at the right post near the end of the first period, but Cirelli was unable to lift the puck over Shestekin’s left pad.