Six years ago today ...
Six years ago today -- June 7, 2004 -- the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup. Ruslan Fedotenko scored two goals, goalie Nikolai Khabibulin erected his famous Bulin Wall late in the third period and the Lightning defeated the Calgary Flames, 2-1, in a thrilling Game 7 to take possession of Lord Stanley's Cup. At the time, it looked like the first of what would be a few Stanley Cups -- or at least solid runs at a few Stanley Cups. Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards both had just turned 24. Fedotenko was 25. Cory Sarich was 26. Pavel Kubina was 27. League MVP Marty St. Louis and Dan Boyle were still shy of their 29th birthdays. Freddy Modin was 29. And goalie Nikolai Khabibulin was still in his prime at age 31.
Then it all disappeared as quickly as it came about. The lockout followed the next season, denying the Lightning a legitimate shot at repeating. Then came a salary cap that was put in place to help small-market teams such as Tampa Bay, but ended up hurting the Lightning more than any team at the time. The Lightning, forced to re-sign the big three of St. Louis, Lecavalier and Richards, lost Khabibulin to free agency. That created a domino effect as the Lightning searched for a goalie and struggled with payroll, forcing it to eventually trade Modin and Richards. The only players left from that magical June 7th night in 2004 are Lecavalier and St. Louis.
In the meantime, the Lightning hasn't won a playoff series since winning the Cup, losing in the first round in 2006 and 2007 and missing the playoffs entirely the past three seasons. Click here to check out a photo gallery of how it all went wrong. All that's left is the memories of what happened six years ago tonight.