After a 16-year drought and a four month pandemic pause, the Tampa Bay Lightning are once again Stanley Cup Champions. The Lightning secured the franchise’s second championship by defeating the Dallas Stars 2-0 in game six on Monday night. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman took home the Conn Smythe trophy which is given to the top performer in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Despite the Lightning having to be in the NHL designated bubble in Edmonton,Canada the team’s efforts still made an impact on the city of Tampa. Fans packed into Thunder Alley at Amalie Arena, Sparkman Wharf on Channelside, and open bars across the city to see the Lightning bring home a championship to the city.
At 10:43 p.m. as the clock hit to zero, fans rejoiced across Tampa as they waved their Lightning flags high and cars across downtown were honking their horns in celebration. Iconic buildings in the Tampa skyline such as the Sykes Rivergate Tower and the SunTrust tower were lit up with blue lights and the Lightning logo projected onto the building. In a year where there has not been much to cheer about, Tampa Bay Lightning fans were given something to rejoice about.
The Lightning took care of the Dallas Stars in six games in one of the most physical playoff series in recent memory. The Lightning got off to a slow start in the series, losing game one 4-1, allowing two goals in the second period. The Lightning came out in game two more focused and won 3-2 as they started fast, scoring all three of their goals in the first period.
The Lightning continued to have the hot hand in game three as they won 5-2, behind defenseman Victor Hedman scoring a goal and notching two assists. The story of game three was the return of left wing and team captain Steven Stamkos. Dealing with a nagging injury the entire playoffs, Stamkos was able to enter the game with the fourth line in game three, and scored a goal immediately after entering the game.
Stamkos is the face of the Lightning and has been with the team for 12 seasons and is the vocal leader both on the ice and in the locker room.
“For him to do that shows what he is not just as a leader, but as a person,” said defenseman Victor Hedman in a postgame interview. “He’s the most unselfish person you’ll meet. He’s all about the team. There’s a reason he’s one of the best captains in the world.”
Stamkos didn’t play another game in the series, but his goal put a jolt of energy into the team. Game four was an overtime thriller as the Lightning came out victorious thanks to an overtime power play goal by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Game five was another nail biter, as Dallas took the 3-2 win in double overtime.
Game six the Lightning came out focused, playing stellar defense as they cut off Dallas’ fast skaters at the blue line, preventing them from getting shots on goal. Dallas only got 22 shots on goal, compared to Tampa’s 29 shots. Goals by Lightning defenseman Brayden Point and Blake Coleman helped the Lightning put the Stars away for good, and bring the Stanley Cup back to Tampa.
Being away from family, friends, and fans has made this championship run one of the most iconic but also one of the toughest accomplishments in NHL history.
“These last six weeks have been really emotional for my family and I, not only on the ice but off the ice,” said Lightning Captain Steven Stamkos in a postgame interview. “I just want to say to my family: I love you guys so much. To all the friends and everyone who supported us along the way: We love you. We can’t wait to celebrate with you.”
For the first time since 2004, Tampa is the city of champions.