The Montreal Canadiens have come up short in their against-all-odds campaign to end Canada’s 28-year Stanley Cup drought.
The Tampa Bay Lightning successfully defended as Cup champions Wednesday, edging the Habs 1-0 at home to claim the series four games to one.
Ross Colton scored his fourth goal of the playoffs, tipping home David Savard’s pass as it drifted through the crease behind a surprised Carey Price.
Andrei Vasilevskiy had a series-ending shutout for an NHL-record fifth consecutive time dating to the 2020 final and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Finishing with a handful in a frantic final minute, Vasilevskiy made 22 saves to remain undefeated in games after a loss over the past two playoffs, both contested during a deadly pandemic with the Lightning coming out on top each time.
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“It’s unbelievable,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “This group, to go back to back after everything we went through last year in the bubble, to go through this year ups and downs it’s amazing.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of Tampa Bay winning a championship, “It feels like things are normal,” to the crowd of 17,000 at Amalie Arena.
“To do it in front of our fans and our families, it’s so special, special,” defenceman Victor Hedman said. “It’s out of this world. Winning a Stanley Cup is one thing. But doing it in front of our fans, family means the world.”
Minutes later, Stamkos paraded the Cup around with fans cheering and pyrotechnics going off behind him.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price made 29 saves.
Both the Habs and the Lightning went 0 for 3 on the power play.
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The two sides battled in a physical, scoreless affair for 33 minutes until the Bolts ended the logjam, with Colton putting home Savard’s pass.
For some of Montreal’s younger superstars, the unlikely campaign was a rare chance to experience professional hockey at its pinnacle, a teachable moment they can only hope will present itself again.
“This is what you play for, to have that opportunity — once, twice, maybe even if that — in your career,” young star forward Cole Caufield said after the team’s pre-game skate.
Interim head coach Dominique Ducharme was similarly contemplative.
“You have to embrace those moments and embrace those challenges,” Ducharme said.
“It’s part of hockey, it’s part of life. That’s the way we handle it.”