The Tampa Bay Lightning are back-to-back champions, while the Montreal Canadiens' remarkable playoff run has come to an end.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 22 saves and Ross Colton scored the only goal as Tampa Bay blanked Montreal 1-0 on Wednesday to capture the Cup by taking the best-of-seven final in five games.
Continuing to validate the organization’s faith in him, Vasilevskiy had a shutout in all four series clinchers, never lost back-to-back games and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Vasilevskiy's five consecutive series-clinching shutouts dating to the 2020 final are a league record.
Carey Price stopped 29 shots for the Canadiens.
"It's incredibly disappointing, but I'm only disappointed about the result," said Price.
"It's not fun to watch somebody else do what you want to be doing. Whether you're watching it on TV or standing there on the bench, it's still the same feeling."
Tampa forward Nikita Kucherov, who missed the entire regular season following hip surgery before returning for the playoffs, led all scorers in the post-season with 32 points in 22 games.
The Canadiens were the last team to qualify for the post-season, and with the worst record. And they wound up being the last team eliminated after enjoying their deepest playoff run in 28 years.
The Lightning are the NHL's second team to win consecutive championships in the salary-cap era, which began in 2005. The Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished the feat with titles in 2016 and '17.
It's Tampa Bay's third Stanley Cup in franchise history.
The Lightning's first came in 2004 against the Calgary Flames followed by last season's victory over the Dallas Stars in the final.
A raucous crowd of 18,110 packed Amalie Arena, while thousands more gathered on a plaza outside the building to celebrate after being forced to follow the team's entire 2020 NHL playoff run from afar due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We wanted to win it in Game 4. It didn't work out," said Tampa captain Steven Stamkos, referring to the Lightning’s 3-2 overtime loss in Montreal.
"Maybe it's a blessing in disguise we got to do it at home. Our family has been there supporting us since Day 1. We can't wait to celebrate with them."
The Canadiens were the latest team to attempt to end Canada's 28-year Stanley Cup drought. Montreal was the last Canadian team to hoist the iconic trophy when it won its 24th Cup back in 1993.
Until this year, Montreal had not made the Cup final since their last title. Vancouver (twice), Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa advanced the final series over that time, but were unable to bring the Cup back north of the border.
"What a season for our @CanadiensMTL! You've kept us on the edge of our seats during these playoffs -- and we can't wait to see you here again next year. #GoHabsGo," Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau posted on Twitter.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2021.
The Canadian Press