The Tampa Bay Lightning are back-to-back Stanley Cup champs — and they did it in a nine-month span.
Tampa Bay defeated Montreal, 1-0 in Game 5 at home on Wednesday, becoming the first team to repeat as champions since the 2016 and 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins.
With the win, the Lightning improved to 15-0 immediately following a loss over the last two postseasons, the longest such streak in NHL history.
“It’s a legacy thing,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said earlier in the week. “Multiple Cups, it gives you good street cred for the guys, for the organization.”
Defeating Montreal represented the 15th series win for the Lightning since 2015. In that span, no other team has won more than nine series.
Tampa Bay dominated the first period of Game 5, holding a 13-8 edge in shots, and 16-8 edge in controlled entries, but could not get a puck past Canadiens goalie Carey Price. However rookie Ross Colton broke open the scoring 13:27 into the second period. Colton was set up on the goal by defenseman David Savard, the only other player on Tampa Bay’s roster that has not won a Stanley Cup.
The Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars in September, 2020 to win in the Edmonton bubble. The franchise’s only other Stanley Cup win came in 2004.
Due to pandemic restrictions in Canada, the Lightning celebrated last year largely without family members allowed in attendance. Had Tampa Bay won in Game 4 – becoming the first team to sweep the Stanley Cup Final in 23 years – that would have been the case again. The Canadian government did not grant additional exemptions for family members to cross the border and skirt the federal 14-day quarantine, something the NHL had negotiated for teams for the last two rounds.
Instead – as Tampa Mayor Jane Castor jokingly suggested last week – the Lightning were able to clinch on home ice, celebrating in a packed arena and with loved ones.
The Cup also marked a personal three-peat for fourth liner Pat Maroon, who also won with his hometown St Louis Blues in 2019. No NHL player had won three-straight Cups since 1983, when 15 Islanders wrapped up their fourth in a row, while no player had won three-straight Cups with two different teams since 1964.
The Canadiens were heavy underdogs entering the Final, and had the worst points percentage (.527) of any team to qualify for the 16-team playoff field. Montreal did not hold a lead at any point against Tampa Bay until Josh Anderson scored in the first period of Game 4 – snapping a streak of 195:39 minutes.
The Lightning were expected to make significant roster changes after last year’s Cup to stay salary cap compliant. But star Nikita Kucherov underwent hip surgery on Dec. 29, and was sidelined for the entire regular season, which allowed GM Julien BriseBois to keep his roster largely intact. Kucherov returned for Game 1 of the first round, and was sensational throughout the entire playoffs, leading all scorers with 32 points -nine more than any other player.
The Lighting also put veteran Tyler Johnson – who led them in scoring in their 2015 Stanley Cup Final run – on waivers twice, and he went unclaimed each time. Johnson was one of Tampa Bay’s key depth players in the 2021 run, including scoring twice in Game 3.
The last 1-0 result in a Stanley Cup-clinching game was in 1996, as the Avalanche defeated the Panthers in triple overtime of Game 4.