Lightning cherishes every moment of opportunity for Cup final redemption


EDMONTON – What I will remember the most is the pure throaty scream.

It echoed in Rogers Place when the Tampa Bay Lightning gathered 48 of their 52-member ice travel group with the Prince of Wales Trophy to take a photo here Thursday night.

You would never know that a celebration could be so emotional in an empty building because, until three days ago with the Dallas Stars, it was completely unprecedented.

The Lightning left their hearts there. It was a moment of six years, if not more, for so many members of this organization. And it was clear that booking a trip to the Stanley Cup Final was no less rewarding under these circumstances than it would have been before either of us had ever heard of COVID-19.

“It’s so hard to explain, because no matter if there are fans in the building or not, the exuberance and the relief is unprecedented what you feel inside,” said the Lightning Coach Jon Cooper. “When you look back – and it’s not over – but we’ve been in a hotel for 54 straight days. And when people said it might be one of the hardest cups to win, it could be one of the hardest cups to win. We are still two standing, they are going through exactly the same thing as us.

“You want your fans to be there, but it’s not about the fans, it’s about the players and the effort, dedication and persistence that they put into it. And they are the ones who deserve it, because they did all the work.

For the Lightning, it was also Steven Stamkos, although the captain hasn’t played a game since late February. He rehabilitated an undisclosed injury in the NHL bubble without playing a game and has been called upon to join Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Alex Killorn for the trophy presentation with Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.

The pride on Stamkos’ face was unmistakable. He let Hedman and the others who contested the six-game series win over the New York Islanders touch the trophy – at least until Hedman passed it to him with instructions to carry it to the locker room. the team.

“It was obviously a great feeling,” Hedman said. “Even though Stammer isn’t playing he is still the leader of this team and he has such a good influence on the room. During morning workouts and skates. It’s still a big reason he’s here where we are.

“I’m so happy the whole group is obviously back again – you know a few of us went in 2015. Coming back to the final with the Lightning is such an unreal experience.

They had good reason to believe it would have happened sooner. It’s a young team that lost the 2015 Stanley Cup Final to Chicago in six games.

Tampa has been the NHL’s top team in virtually every measurable category since it happened, but they’ve only seen heartbreak. A loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016 and 2018, followed by a record 62-game winning streak last year, followed by a sweep to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Losing that would have been the ultimate punch.

The Lightning were the better team against New York, but there is a price to be paid against the Islanders. Brayden Point was in and out of the series, Ondrej Palat took a kick in the 2-1 series win on Thursday and Anthony Cirelli left for a time after an accidental knee-to-knee collision with Anders Lee.

It was Cirelli who finally froze the clock in overtime with his first goal and his first point of the season.

The celebration was amazing. These guys understood at a fundamental level what that meant.

“You have to cherish these moments and do your best to enjoy them,” Cooper said. “We’ve knocked on the door and it can get frustrating. It can make summers so short in terms of time, but in terms of mentality, they are long. You just have to believe in your process and you have to believe in what you are doing and you have to have players who join you.

“At the end of the day, it’s a gamer game.”

The players celebrated this one together. The Lightning brought in all the extra skaters they have here on the ice for this Eastern Conference Championships photo. There was Mathieu Joseph and his magnificent hair, Braydon Coburn and his big playoff beard, Stamkos and his ubiquitous smile.

“Definitely a special time for this group and then to get the whole team involved,” said veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh. ” Great moment. ”

Hedman is still the last player on the ice after a win in Tampa and had to wait for a four-question interview with Killorn with NBC after knocking out the Islanders. He could be heard banging his stick as Killorn spoke with Pierre McGuire inside that empty building.

He knew his teammates were celebrating without them but still wouldn’t leave.

What a cool scene, all of it.

The Lightning will be back here against the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night and they didn’t hesitate to empty themselves of a few veins just for the chance.

“As for the gasoline in the tank, I guess we’ll see,” Cooper said. “This is unlike any other Stanley Cup final where we would have days off. If you don’t go seven, you usually have days off. We’re not here, but if you wanted to tell me, “Hey Coop, you’re playing the Stanley Cup final.

“You’ll only have 45 hours of rest before the game, but you’re going to be able to play it, ‘I’m taking this all day.


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