The Tampa Bay Lightning are the 2020 Stanley Cup champions, hoisting the NHL’s championship trophy Monday in a near-empty Rogers Place to cap off a surreal, bifurcated, bubbled hockey season for the ages.
Brayden Point and Blake Coleman scored the goals and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 shots for his first career playoff shutout in a 2-0 win, giving Tampa Bay a 4-2 triumph in the best-of-seven series.
The Lightning players exploded off the bench as the seconds ticked to zero, tossing sticks and gloves and swarming Vasilevskiy, their whoops and hollers echoing off the empty seats and capacious tarps.
Defenceman Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
“This is the best moment of our hockey lives,” Hedman told reporters just before the players popped and sprayed champagne in the visitors’ locker room.
“It’s been a grind. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s over.
“We’re going to be Stanley Cup champs forever.
“Our kids (and) our grandkids, if they look at the Stanley Cup they’re gonna see our names. You can’t even imagine how proud you’re going to feel.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman walked out to centre ice to award the trophy, but this time not accompanied by the lowing boos from fans that had become an unofficial league tradition.
“To win in this place at this time under these circumstances is remarkable and frankly overwhelming,” said Bettman before he handed the silver barrel-and-bowl trophy to Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who proceeded to lift it with two hands over his head.
The Bolts had been knocking on the Cup door in recent years, making the final four in four of the last six seasons. In 2015 they lost to Chicago 4-2 in the Stanley Cup final.
under the crazy conditions, they went 18-7, never lost two games in a row, and shut down the top three defensive teams in the league (Boston, Dallas, and Columbus).
The Bolts were overtime warriors, going 7-2 in extra-session games, including a marathon five-overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round.
The Lightning played 221:14 total in overtime, more than any team in playoff history.
In what was the hardest hockey season however, the best team in recent years finally put it all together.