Players and Staff posing with the trophy. Credit: Marko Ditkun | Special to the Times
For the first time since 2015, the Tampa Bay Lightning is through to the Stanley Cup Finals.
On Thursday, September 17th, the Tampa Bay Lightning got through Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Islanders, winning 2-1 in OT. Anthony Cirelli was the hero of that game. He scored the overtime winning goal that sent them to the Stanley Cup Finals. It will be their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2015, when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the favorites to win the Eastern Conference Finals. With talent like Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Braden Point they were predicted to win the series in four straight games. The team had total control at the start of the series, winning the first two games. However, the Islanders found a way to wine Game 3. Tampa won Game 4 and it was thought that Game 5 will be their one way ticket to the Finals. Not so fast; the Islanders found a way to rob Tampa once again, forcing a Game 6.
Game 6 was a low scoring one. The Islanders took the early lead in the first period when Devon Toews scored the first goal of the game. Yet, their lead only lasted for about two minutes, until Tampa’s Victor Hedman tied the game. The rest of the game was pure defense talent produced by both teams. The Lightning had plenty of scoring opportunities in the second period of the game, yet they came up empty. The New York Islanders were relying on their starting goalie, Semyon Varlamov, to defend the net against the offensive force of the Lightning. He was the best New York player, making 48 saves.
The magic moment that every Lightning fan had been waiting for happened at 13:18 in OT, when Anthony Cirelli clinched the game with his overtime winning goal. During the game he got an injury scare when he collided with Anders Lee from the New York Islanders. He was seen walking down the tunnel, yet in the end, he became Tampa’s beacon of hope.
After the game was over and Tampa received their Prince Of Wales Trophy, Victor Hedman was eager to touch it, disregarding the superstition that surround touching the Conference Finals trophy. Steven Stamkos didn’t touch it in 2015 and they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, so the team decided to test their luck and celebrate the win with no superstitions attached, hoping to get their hands on the most desired trophy- The Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning will face the Dallas Stars in the first round of the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday, September 19th.