Lightning Beat Isles to Reach Cup Final
Five years after socially distancing from the Prince of Wales Trophy and losing in the Stanley Cup Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning got their hands on and arms around it to embrace their Eastern Conference championship.
Anthony Cirelli scored in overtime and Tampa Bay beat the New York Islanders 2-1 in Game 6 of the East final Thursday night and go back to the Cup Final for the first time since 2015.
Injured captain Steven Stamkos, who wouldn't even stand near the trophy then out of superstition, walked on to the ice to accept it along with the Lightning's entire travelling party.
Players and coaches screamed with joy after taking a team photo with deputy commissioner Bill Daly. That came minutes after they streamed on to the ice to celebrate Cirelli's goal 13:18 into overtime.
Tampa Bay ended each of its three series victories in overtime and goes on to face the Dallas Stars for the title. Only New York lasted more than five games, pushing the Lightning to their limits before their talented core got them into the final.
They're four wins from the Cup despite being without Stamkos all post-season and missing top centre Brayden Point for two games against the Islanders. They can thank defenceman Victor Hedman for scoring his ninth goal of the playoffs, Nikita Kucherov for playing 28:22 and Andrei Vasilveskiy making 26 saves while his teammates peppered Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov with 48 shots.
Tampa Bay is trying to win its first championship since 2004. It's the first time in franchise history the Lightning didn't play a seven-game series in the conference finals.
with files from (The Associated Press)