Avs fans everywhere were able to rejoice on Sunday night, as the Colorado Avalanche made team history for the third time, winning 2-1 in Game 6 over defending champion Tampa Bay Lighting to be crowned the 2022 Stanley Cup Final champions.
The Avalanche continued their playoff success on the road and avoided a Game 7 with a win in Tampa in front of the opposing team's crowd at Amalie Arena.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos opened the scoring early in the 1st period with the lone goal for the Bolts. Next, Nathan MacKinnon was able to notch the first Avalanche goal of the game early in the 2nd period. The teams were able to keep play close the entire deciding game. It was deadline acquisition forward Artturi Lehkonen who found the back of the net for the Avs' game winner just after halfway through the 3rd period to gain the 1-goal lead. It would be all that was needed in Game 6 for the Avs to claim the Stanley Cup.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly presented captain Gabriel Landeskog the Stanley Cup, as Commissioner Gary Bettman missed his traditional presentation while he recovered from COVID-19. Landeskog passed the cup to veteran defenseman Eric Johnson before it went to deadline acquisition and NHL veteran Andrew Cogliano and the rest of the team.
"It's a 20-pound weight lifted off of our shoulders, and it just means so much to be able to bring this championship back to the city of Denver and the fans of Denver," Landeskog said. "They were there with us through that tough season for all the tough season through the heartbreak over the last few years. They kept believing in us, and we wish we could have done this in front of them, but instead we will be bringing it home to them. But I'm sure they're partying pretty good in Denver right now."
As many know, the last time the Avs hoisted the Cup was in 2001 with a series win over the New Jersey Devils, when current general manager Joe Sakic was the captain.
"It's a little different. As a player, you just play, and you focus on your game. Once you start the game, you're just playing," Sakic said. "When you have to watch, and it gets down to the last 5 minutes, it's a lot more stressful."
Colorado began the final series with two straight wins, taking advantage of home ice. The team finished the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference, securing home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
The second and final round were the only two that required the Avs to play more than 5 games, as they were able to sweep teams in the first and conference final rounds.
Cale Makar was named the Avs' playoff MVP and awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy ahead of the Cup ceremony. Makar finished the playoffs leading all defensemen with the most points scored in the post-season. The team saw four of its top players in Makar, Landeskog, Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen score 20 points or more in 20 games to claim the Stanley Cup. Makar was also named the league's best defenseman, receiving the James Norris Memorial Trophy on June 21.
Another highlight during the cup run came in the final series when forward Nazem Kadri scored a game-winning goal in overtime of Game 4 after coming off of injury. He had injured his thumb during the conference final against the Edmonton Oilers.
The successful run was also marked by contributions from the Avs' goalie tandem. Both Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz served in net for the Colorado team. Backup Francouz came up big for his team when starter Kuemper left Game 1 against Edmonton. Francouz would finish that game for his teammate with a win and went on to help the team complete the sweep against the Oilers. Kuemper was able to return in the final round and hold down the net to help his team claim victory.
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