Washington—The Colorado Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup Final in 21 years on Sunday when Nathan MacKinnon scored one goal and set up another to spark a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay.
The Avalanche captured the National Hockey League’s best-of-seven championship series four games to two for Colorado’s third NHL crown after 1996 and 2001.
“It feels like disbelief,” MacKinnon said. “It’s hard to describe. To see all these warriors battle, it’s unbelievable. Words can’t describe what I feel right now.”
With the emotional road triumph, the Avalanche denied the Lightning a third consecutive title and fourth overall.
Colorado defenseman Cale Makar was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Makar, a 23-year-old Canadian, scored eight goals and added 21 assists in 19 playoff games.
“All the work these guys have put in, it’s just so awesome to be part of them getting rewarded,” Makar said. “I’m just so proud of the boys.”
He smiled as he looked at the Stanley Cup.
“You see that thing as a kid, grow up with pictures of it on the wall,” Makar said. “It’s surreal. It’s amazing.”
Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos opened the scoring 3:48 into the first period off an assist from Czech left wing Ondrej Palat. It was the Canadian center’s career-best 11th goal of the playoff run.
MacKinnon netted the equalizer 1:54 into the second period, an angled shot just inside the near post for his 13th goal of the playoffs.
The Avalanche seized the lead by the final margin with 7:32 remaining in the second period on a goal from Finnish left wing Artturi Lehkonen, his eighth of the post-season, off a pass from Canadian center MacKinnon.
The Lightning pulled goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy in the dying seconds for an extra attacker to try and score an equalizer, but could not stop the Avalanche from hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Colorado players dropped their sticks to the ice and hurled their gloves into the air to begin their celebration after the final second ticked off the clock.
In a trophy ceremony minutes later, Colorado players took turns lifting the trophy over their heads and passing it to teammates, many pausing to kiss the hardware as they skated around the ice.
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog thought of those who helped nurture his championship dreams as he skated with the Cup, his dream made real.
“That’s 20-plus years of dreaming and wanting it and working for it,” the Swedish left wing said. “It’s the culmination of a lot of years and working for it. It’s incredible. I still can’t believe it.”
‘It all adds up’
Landeskog smiled as he watched his teammates celebrate.
“They just want to win so bad and do whatever it takes, and it all adds up and makes us a hard team to play against,” he said.
“The expectations we put on ourselves to be great, to work on ourselves. We had eight or nine come-from-behind wins. That’s hard to do.”
The only team in NHL history to trail 3-1 and rally to win the Stanley Cup Final, as the Lightning attempted to do, was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.