All season long the Tampa Bay Lightning had found a way when they needed it the most. Despite injuries, despite a December bout with COVID, despite sturdy competition from teams in their own division they made it to Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final. In the end, despite leaving everything they had on the ice, they found themselves just short as the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup with a 2-1 victory.
Steven Stamkos scored early for the Lightning, but Colorado went ahead with second period goals from Nathan MacKinnon and Artturi Lehkonen. Andrei Vasilevskiy was stellar in an elimination game again with 28 saves on 30 shots. Darcy Kuemper did what he needed to do, shutting the door after the Stamkos goal and stopping 22 of 23.
A very early power play for the Lightning goes wanting. They struggled to get set up and when they did Colorado prevented any good looks at the net. A shot from Mikhail Sergachev did catch Andrew Cogliano just under the knee and sent him hobbling to the bench.
The Lightning were skating well early and jumping on loose pucks. A strong forecheck by the top line led to the first goal of the night. Nikita Kucherov won a battle behind the the Colorado net with Nathan MacKinnon. A second effort by Kucherov disrupted Cale Makar’s clearing attempt. The puck bounced off of Ondrej Palat’s skate right to Steven Stamkos who slid it under a reaching Kuemper for the opening goal.
Steven Stamkos (Ondrej Palat) 1-0 Lightning
Following the goal there was a long stretch of uninterrupted play as the teams went back and forth on the ice. The Lightning fired a few pucks wide of Kuemper and Vasilevskiy had to make an in close stop on a deflection attempt by Nazem Kadri, but the score didn’t change. The Lightning did suffer a couple of more bruises as Erik Cernak was shaken up on a shot by MacKinnon and Jan Rutta was knocked down on a clearing attempt by Sergachev.
Both would return by the end of the period and help the Lightning keep the Avalanche off of the scoreboard in the first period. The period would end 1-0 despite a few pushes by the Avalanche, including one where Arturri Lehkonen chipped a centering pass off of the outside of the far post. It was a fairly even period, but the Lightning had what they wanted after 20 minutes - the lead.
An early push by Colorado negated that lead. On a delayed Lightning penalty, the Avalanche were able to work the puck around the zone and Nathan MacKinnon snuck a shot past Vasilevskiy’s blocker on the short side.
Nathan MacKinnon (Bowen Byrum, Gabriel Landeskog) 1-1
A frozen, round piece of rubber will bounce wherever it wants to go on the ice and for the Lightning it decided to bounce the wrong way. Nathan MacKinnon tried to pass the puck back to Josh Manson on a give-and-go but it hit Ryan McDonagh’s skate and instead of harmlessly skittering away, it went right to an open Artturi Lehkonen, who, instead of hitting the post put it in the net.
Artturi Lehkonen (Nathan MacKinnon, Josh Manson) 2-1 Colorado
Pat Maroon somehow avoided a penalty after slashing his stick against Manson’s stick/leg after the goal. Ryan McDonagh wouldn’t be so lucky as he clearly boarded Darren Helm a few minutes later leading to the first Colorado power play of the game. The Lightning managed to kill it off (with Alex Killorn also snapping a nice shot off on a short-handed rush that Kuemper had to kick out).
Colorado was a lot cleaner in their own zone, allowing the Lightning just two high-danger chances and nine total scoring chances at even strength according to Natural Stat Trick.
The Avalanche were even better in the third, as they denied anything and everything by the Lightning, allowing just one shot on net halfway through the period. Try as they might with time winding down, the Lightning could not find enough zone time to test Kuemper. A few late flurries, including a one-timer from Kucherov came up short.
The Avalanche cleared it one last time, with just the right pace to negate icing and with 10 seconds left the Lightning were unable to muster that last little bit of magic. For the first time all year they weren’t able to find a way and Colorado celebrated their hard-earned Stanley Cup Victory.