For the first time since 2015, the Tampa Bay Lightning are Eastern Conference Champions as they advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Lightning defeated the New York Islanders in six games, as an overtime goal by center Anthony Cerelli punched their ticket to the Finals. The Lightning will have an opportunity to win the franchise’s second Stanley Cup as they are set to take on the Dallas Stars.
“Score! Cerelli! Stanley Cup Finals, here come the Tampa Bay Lightning,” exclaimed Tampa Bay Lightning radio play-by-play announcer, Dave Mishkin.
Fans back in Tampa are continuing to be the distant thunder as they support their team from afar. At 11:07 p.m. Lightning fans across Tampa rejoiced in their homes or in open bars across the city as Anthony Cerelli propelled them to the Finals.
“It’s so hard to explain. Regardless if there’s fans in the building or not, the exuberance and relief are unparalleled,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper in a postgame interview. “We’ve been in a hotel for 54 days and I think this might be one of the hardest Cups ever to win.”
The Lightning got off to a fast start in the series as they took a commanding three games to one lead after four games. The Lightning dominated game one as they exploded for eight goals in an offensive outburst. Center Brayden Point continues to build on his strong playoff performance as he led the team in game one with two goals and three assists.
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy shined in game two as he saved 27 shots with a 96% save percentage as the Lightning won 2-1. Game four was a physical battle as there were multiple fights and penalties, but the Lightning cruised to a 4-1 victory behind Brayden Point recording one goal and one assist.
The Islanders wouldn’t go down without a fight as they won a double overtime nail-biter 2-1 in game five. Game six got off to a fast start as both teams scored goals early in the first period. After one period, it became a defensive battle leaving the teams knotted at 1-1 at the end of regulation. The teams battled in overtime but the Lightning pulled out the clutch victory as center Anthony Cerelli saved the day for the Lightning.
The Lightning are performing at a high level, even without their captain and franchise legend Steven Stamkos who is sidelined with a core injury. After clinching the Eastern Conference, the Lightning brought Stamkos out on the ice during the trophy presentation to celebrate with the team.
“We wanted Steven out there with us,” said defenseman Ryan Mcdonagh in a postgame interview. “He’s been a huge part of this team even without playing. He’s a big leader in this locker room. It was a very special moment.”
The Lightning will face the Western Conference Champion Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Stars are an extremely talented team as they took care of the Las Vegas Golden Knights in five games, clinching the Western Conference. This series has great matchups between players that NHL experts consider among the league’s best. The matchup to watch is Stars defenseman Tyler Seguin and goalie Ben Bishop, up against Lightning defenseman Brayden Point and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Game one will begin on Saturday, Sept. 18.