Jun 26, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game six of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Photo © Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The Colorado Avalanche are atop the mountain in the NHL for the third time in franchise history.
Artturi Lehkonen scored the go-ahead goal with 7:32 remaining in the second period to lift the Avalanche to a 2-1 victory over the host Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Sunday.
Colorado, which also won the title in 1996 and 2001, denied Tampa Bay’s bid of completing a three-peat as Stanley Cup champion.
Nathan MacKinnon collected a goal and an assist and Darcy Kuemper made 22 saves for the Avalanche, who set a franchise record with nine road wins in a playoff year. Six clubs share the NHL record of 10 road victories.
“Disbelief. It’s crazy,” MacKinnon said. “I can’t wait to hug my family. Geez, it’s hard to describe. I didn’t really know what it would feel like to actually win it, but just seeing all these warriors battle, it just feels unbelievable. Words can’t describe how I feel right now.”
Reigning Norris Trophy recipient Cale Makar (eight goals, 21 assists) was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the playoffs. Makar, 23, is the third defenseman to win both trophies in the same year, joining Hockey Hall of Famers Bobby Orr (1970, 1972) and Nicklas Lidstrom (2002).
“It’s just been building over time,” Makar told ESPN of his team’s ascent. “For us, I’ve been here only three years, a couple tough exits in the playoffs. It was just all leading up to this.”
Captain Gabriel Landeskog was succinct when asked by ESPN how teams can mimic what Colorado achieved.
“Find a Cale Makar somewhere,” Landeskog said.
Captain Steven Stamkos scored and Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 28 shots for the Lightning, who were trying to become the seventh team to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-1 in a best-of-seven Cup final.
“I’m just sick to my stomach for some of these guys,” Stamkos said. “Some guys didn’t get a chance to win with us the past couple of years. And when they signed with us, we told them, we’re gonna make a run and we come up short. It’s a gut punch.”
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper applauded his team for its run of excellence over the last few seasons.
“They’ve thrilled hockey fans in this city for three years now,” he said. “To sit here and think the last playoff series we lost was Columbus in 2019, you’ve gotta tip your hat to the guys in that room.”
Lehkonen, who hit the post late in the first period, gave Colorado a 2-1 lead with 7:32 remaining in the second. The puck banked off the leg of Tampa Bay defenseman Zach Bogosian and right to Lehkonen, who sent a shot over the glove of Vasilevskiy for his eighth goal of the playoffs.
Tampa Bay scored the first goal for the third straight game after converting a turnover at 3:48 of the first period. The puck caromed off the skate of Ondrej Palat and right to Stamkos, who sent a shot between the pads of Kuemper for his team co-leading 11th goal of the playoffs and second in the finals.
Vasilevskiy preserved the slim advantage in the first period after denying a point-blank chance from Nazem Kadri before receiving help from the post on Lehkonen’s shot from in front.
The Avalanche successfully answered 1:54 into the second period after MacKinnon wired a shot from deep in the left circle that banked off Vasilevskiy’s blocker and into the net. MacKinnon’s goal was his NHL co-leading 13th of the postseason, tying him with Edmonton’s Evander Kane.
—Field Level Media