Defenceman Ryan McDonagh was getting ready to reply one final query relating to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup championship when teammates Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn crashed the room, placing an abrupt and celebratory finish to the information convention.
“Who’s subsequent? Subsequent query,” Kucherov mentioned, wanting into the digital camera.
With McDonagh stopping in mid-sentence, Killorn stepped behind the rostrum and mentioned, “We’re not staying right here all night time, man.”
The anticipate the Lightning — and the NHL — was lengthy sufficient after Tampa Bay clinched the Cup with a 2-Zero win in Recreation 6 in opposition to Dallas on Monday night time in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Lightning raised the Cup 363 days after the primary puck was dropped on the 2019-20 season, and a few 6 1/2 months after hockey was placed on pause as a result of coronavirus pandemic.
“We knew what we have been able to with our entire roster, and we have been fairly grateful to get the chance to come back again and play,” McDonagh mentioned.
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The Lightning’s title, their second after profitable in 2004, was historic.
In changing into the primary crew to win the Cup after the month of June, the Lightning additionally grew to become the primary to win 18 playoff video games, together with two in a preliminary spherical seeding collection, versus the usual 16. And so they did so whereas spending 65 days within the NHL bubble, beginning in Toronto earlier than relocating to Edmonton for the convention finals.
The Lightning returned house later Tuesday, greeted by members of the family and lots of of followers on an airstrip close to Tampa Worldwide Airport.
The gang cheered crew members exiting the airplane. Defenceman Victor Hedman, holding his Conn Smythe Trophy, and crew captain Steven Stamkos, hoisting the Stanley Cup, have been the final to go away the airplane.
“To lastly be right here and revel in it, it is superior,” Killorn mentioned. “It is type of surreal proper now to be trustworthy.”
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As soon as reunited with their households, the crew members have been taken to Amalie Enviornment for a personal on-ice celebration that included their wives, girlfriends, kids, enviornment employees staff and crew sponsors.
Staff proprietor Jeff Vinik mentioned the Lightning have been probably the most profitable groups within the NHL, however have been lacking one factor.
“Over the previous six years we have been to 4 convention finals and performed for the Stanley Cup,” Vinik mentioned. “This time we gained it.”
Stamkos thanked the households for his or her endurance because the gamers spent greater than 60 days within the NHL’s bubble in Toronto and Edmonton.
“This was in all probability the hardest Stanley Cup to win beneath the circumstances.,” Stamkos mentioned. “It is superb the sacrifices the households went by means of simply to permit us to chase our goals.”
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A fan rally and boat parade alongside the Hillsborough River is ready for Wednesday, adopted by a public celebration at Raymond James Stadium the place 16,000 followers are anticipated to attend.
Whereas the Lightning have fun, the NHL turns its consideration to subsequent week, when the two-day draft — to be performed remotely — opens on Oct. 6, adopted by the beginning of free company three days later.
The skilled and deep Lightning made Stars coach Rick Bowness’ pre-series feedback prescient. Bowness, a former Tampa Bay assistant, famous how the Lightning “weren’t fairly able to win” in 2015 in dropping the ultimate to Chicago in six video games.
This yr’s crew proved way more battle-tested, with a lot of the identical core nonetheless in place, and all too conversant in playoff setbacks. The Lightning misplaced Japanese Convention last appearances — each in Recreation 7 — in 2016 and 2018. Then there was the unshakable reminiscence of final yr, when Tampa Bay ran away with the regular-season title solely to be swept by Columbus within the first spherical.
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It was solely becoming, McDonagh mentioned, that Columbus was the Lightning’s first-round opponent this yr. Tampa Bay not solely gained the collection in 5 video games, however confirmed perseverance in opening the collection needing 5 overtimes to drag out a 3-2 win within the fourth-longest sport in NHL historical past.
They did it with Stamkos restricted to taking part in simply two minutes and 47 seconds whereas lacking the remainder of the playoffs with a core muscle harm. And so they overcame main goal-scorer Brayden Level lacking two video games (each losses) with an undisclosed harm.
The Lightning by no means misplaced two straight, and loved a couple of blowout victories, together with 8-2 and 7-1 routs over Boston and the Islanders. Extra vital, Tampa Bay was 12-Three in video games determined by one objective.
Normal supervisor Julien BriseBois earned credit score for including grit and playoff expertise. Maroon and defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk have been among the many crew’s low season free-agent additions. BriseBois did not cease there, buying and selling first-round draft picks to amass Barclay Goodrow from San Jose and Blake Coleman from New Jersey in February.
The Lightning, who completed second within the Atlantic Division with a 43-21-6 file, capped a season by which they loved a franchise-record 11-Zero run from Jan. 29 to Feb. 17 following a 14-11 begin.
Shattenkirk credited coach Jon Cooper for not over-reacting to the early stumbles.
“I feel his endurance was in all probability the most effective attribute,” Shattenkirk mentioned earlier this month. “He confirmed all through the entire means in believing in our crew and believing within the guys we had within the locker room.”