What was supposed to be the championship that cemented the Lightning into an all-time dynasty, turned into the start of a potential new hockey dynasty.
Game six started off strong for the Lightning at Amalie Arena. Three minutes and 48 seconds into the first period, Nikita Kucherov tried to bring the puck to the slot, but got checked by a defender which made him lose the puck. It squeaked out towards Ondrej Palat and deflected off of his skate. Captain Steven Stamkos collected the puck, drove toward the net and snuck it past Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper to give the Lightning the lead.
The Lightning held a tight grip on the game. Battling with the Avalanche trying to slow the offensive onslaught they were trying for. But the Avalanche got a huge break to start the second period.
One minute and 54 seconds into the period, the Avalanche swarmed into the offensive zone. Mikko Rantanen fired the puck into the zone from the blue for captain Gabriel Landeskog to go and collect. He cycled around to the right wall and passed it back up to rookie defenseman Bowen Byram. While this was happening, a delayed penalty on Tampa was awaiting to be assessed by the referee. This gave the Avalanche a tiny boost to keep things going. Byram loads up a strong stretch pass for superstar Nathan MacKinnon who was sitting in the left circle. Once the pass connected, MacKinnon rifled it past Andrei Vasilevskiy to tie the game.
Back and forth the Lightning kept pushing and tried to hammer away at the Avs. But nothing they could do would stop the relentless pressure from Colorado. Rush after rush they just kept holding onto a tie game. Until one of the two goalies finally cracked.
With 7:88 left in the second period the Avalanche got a three-on-two opportunity as they entered their offensive zone. Defenseman Josh Manson passed it to MacKinnon who couldn’t get the pass off and had it bounce Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh. This bounce landed right onto the stick of Colorado forward Artturi Lehkonen who quickly shot it towards Vasilevskiy and got it past him. Tampa had lost it.
This changed the momentum in Colorado’s favor for the rest of the game. Tampa had looked like they lost all control. Even right after the goal, Lightning forward Pat Maroon tried to slash Josh Manson’s leg before he dodged it. The Lightning were not ready to go out like this Tampa would play super aggressive and hit and check almost every way. They were shaken to their core.
The score would stand for the rest of the game and the Avs would hold on. For the first time in 21 years, the Colorado Avalanche are once again Stanley Cup Champions.
The Lightning have become one of the best teams in the salary cap era. This team deserves their flowers and praise for everything they’ve done. Their success is nothing insignificant and to see what they’ve done from 2015-2022 is nothing short of amazing. The team with Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Andrei Vasilevskiy has given us so many memorable playoff moments and their own legacy that is written in the books of hockey history. But as one dynasty ends, another is soon to arise.