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Behind the lens: Blake Coleman’s last-second goal

How Times photographer Douglas Clifford captured Lightning magic during the Stanley Cup final.
Lightning forward Blake Coleman (20) slides on the ice along with the Canadiens' Phillip Danault (24) after chipping a shot over the stick of Montreal Montreal goaltender Carey Price (31) during the second period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final on June 30 at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Lightning forward Blake Coleman (20) slides on the ice along with the Canadiens' Phillip Danault (24) after chipping a shot over the stick of Montreal Montreal goaltender Carey Price (31) during the second period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final on June 30 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sep. 2

Lightning forward Blake Coleman’s diving goal in the closing seconds of the second period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final was so big it immediately became a viral moment. Analysts and reporters described the shot — which gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead in an eventual 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens — as brilliant, improbable, defining, thrilling and nostalgic.

Capturing a moment like that with a camera can be as elusive as the play itself.

With only eight seconds remaining in the period, the Canadiens had possession of the puck. But Coleman jammed up Montreal’s Phillip Danault in the neutral zone. Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh picked up the puck and fed a quick pass to Barclay Goodrow who, with three seconds left, beat Ben Chiarot into Canadiens territory. Danault and Coleman were in a foot race down the left side of the ice as Montreal defenseman Shea Weber closed on Goodrow, forcing him to make a backhand pass to Coleman.

”I saw Blake drive the net, so I figured if I could maybe get it over to him, it would probably have a better chance of going in than me trying to shoot from where I was,” Goodrow said later. “So I went for it, and luckily we had enough time.”

Visually, the play was stacked with possibilities and potential outcomes. Where will it end up?

I’m shooting tight with a long lens, 560mm from a high angle inside Amalie Arena. As the play developed, I swung the camera from Goodrow to Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and peeked over the lens to see the backhand pass to Coleman. I leaned on the motor drive, capturing Price at the ready, but I trained the camera too high as Coleman converged on the net. My choice to watch Price gave me the proximity to slide the lens to Coleman’s diving shot with 1.1 seconds left in the period.

It’s a cycle of anticipation, adjustments and reactions. Most decisions border on the subconscious, and I’ve missed plays entirely with wrong choices. Hockey, more than any other sport, challenges my ability to make visual decisions.Similarly, sports photography is fast, deliberate, calculating and unforgiving. In the end, you either get the shot or you don’t.

This time, I had it.

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