Andrei Vasilevskiy blanks Canadiens 1-0; Lightning win second straight Stanley Cup
The 2020-21 NHL season is over. While the date on the calendar is different, the Stanley Cup Champion remains the same.
Ross Colton scored a second-period goal and Andrei Vasilevskiy concluded another series with a shutout win as the Tampa Bay Lightning clinched their second consecutive Stanley Cup title, beating the visiting Montreal Canadiens 1-0 on Wednesday.
The Lightning, who claimed their third championship in franchise history, won the best-of-seven Final series in five games. Tampa Bay won its first title in 2004. The Lightning are the first back-to-back NHL champions since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and ’17,
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Andrei Vasilevskiy wins Conn Smythe
Vasilevskiy made 22 saves for his fifth shutout in this year’s title run and the sixth of his career in the postseason. The 26-year-old Russian recorded a shutout in all four series-clinching victories this year, and he has blanked the opposition in five consecutive series clinchers dating back to last year’s Cup-winning finale against the Dallas Stars.
After the game, Gary Bettman noted that not since Ken Dryden has a goalie played every game in a team’s back-to-back championship run. Vasilevskiy’s performance earned him the Conn Smythe as MVP of the playoffs. He finished with a .937 SV% and a 1.90 GAA while recording 5 shutouts. Most notably, he ended each series by blanking the opposition.
“It’s obviously the whole team deserves it for sure,” Vasilevskiy said. “Just to have five shutouts in one playoffs, it’s all about team for sure. We were able to shut down the teams four times in a row in clinching games, just amazing. Can’t say more. It’s not about me, it’s about our team.”NHL.com
Tough end for Canadiens
Carey Price stopped 29 shots for the Canadiens, who saw their Cinderella run come to an end. The Canadiens were the lowest-ranked club to reach the playoffs, but they delivered a trio of upset victories en route to facing the Lightning for the crown.
However, they didn’t have enough to upset the defending champions, who were especially the superior squad in the opening frame and third period.
No Canadian team has claimed the Cup since Montreal earned its last championship in 1993.
A dejected but stoic Carey Price tried to take the blame for the series loss during postgame media questions. “I just don’t think I played well enough at the start of the series,” he said.
Sitting beside him almost shaking his head was Habs captain Shea Weber. “I don’t think that’s the case at all,” he immediately interjected. “To be honest, I think that we weren’t good enough in front of Carey. Give [the Lightning] credit. They’re a heck of a team. They’re here for a reason and they were better than us in the end.”
Lightning win the 2021 Stanley Cup
Colton’s first goal of the series finally opened the scoring past the midway point. Colton was parked at the front of the net and neatly redirected David Savard’s pass right to his stick in the crease at 13:27 of the second period. His fourth goal of the playoffs set a franchise record for most playoff goals by a rookie.
It’s the 18th game in which the Lightning have scored first during their playoff run, and they posted a 16-2 record when they opened the scoring.
The lack of goals didn’t mean there was a lack of scoring chances. Price, who held his team in the game during a one-sided first period dominated by the Lightning, was especially strong with saves against Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat late in the second period.
Vasilevskiy, although not as busy as his counterpart, denied Artturi Lehkonen’s rebound chance early in the second period, stopped Josh Anderson’s partial breakaway early in the third period and held strong in the dying seconds while the Canadiens frantically pushed for the equalizer.
“It’s so hard to win the Stanley Cup,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “And then you do it two years in a row. You deserve to go down in history. And this group, no matter what happens from here on out, this group is going to be etched in history forward. And that’s pretty special.”NHL.com
–Field Level Media contributed to this article