On a day when strong storms swept through southwest Florida, the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team showed that lightning can strike twice. The Lightning got two NHL firsts on their home ice Friday while clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals to defend their championship.
The Lightning defeated the New York Islanders, 1-0, in Game 7 of the semifinal series Friday night. The Lightning advance to the Stanley Cup Final matchup against the Montreal Canadiens, who knocked off the Las Vegas Knights in the other semifinal.
Tampa Bay accomplished two things Friday night that had never been done in NHL playoff history, which goes back more than 100 years.
First of all, the Lightning scored a short-handed goal in the second period when Yanni Gourde took a pass from Anthony Cirelli and sent it into the net on a one-timer. The goal was all Tampa Bay needed, and it’s the first time in history that a Game 7 of the playoffs ended with a short-handed goal.
Furthermore, the Lightning shutout their opponents in the series-clinching game in each of the first three rounds, which had never been done in NHL playoffs history.
To take Tampa Bay’s historic run another bit forward, they have not lost consecutive games in the playoffs since the first round of the 2019 playoffs, making them 14-0 after a loss in that time frame—another NHL record.
Tampa Bay won last season’s Stanley Cup in a COVID-shortened season, and Tampa became known as “Title Town” after the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl last season—in Tampa of all places—as a wild card. Its hometown baseball Rays also made it to the World Series last season before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. The Bucs are a favorite to win the Super Bowl again, and the Rays are in first place in the American League East, half a game ahead of the Boston Red Sox and five games ahead of the New York Yankees.
The Stanley Cup Finals for the Lightning begin Monday night, with the puck dropping at 8 p.m. ET. Games one and two (Wednesday, June 30) can be seen on NBCSN, with the remainder of games being shown on the NBC network.
The Lightning defeated in-state rival Florida Panthers, 4-2, in the opening round of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. The Lightning then shocked the Carolina Hurricane with a 4-1 series win, and then took down the Islanders, 4-3.
The Canadiens needed all seven games to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3, in the first round before sweeping the Winnipeg Jets in four games during the second round. An underdog in the semifinals, Montreal defeated the Las Vegas Knights, 4-2, in six games. The Canadiens have won five games this postseason in overtime, including the 3-2 win over Las Vegas to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Montreal Canadiens have the most Stanley Cup Finals games (161), games won (103) and series wins (23) in league history. Despite finishing fourth in the all-Canadian North division this season, they clawed their way to the team’s first Stanley Cup Final series since the 1992-93 season when they defeated the Los Angeles Kings for the cup.