Winning the Stanley Cup is something every hockey player dreams of. Young kids stand in their driveway narrating that beautiful moment when they score the game-winning goal in overtime to earn that prized trophy.
For all the extra hockey the Lightning played, there was no overtime goal to secure the Cup, but there were plenty of other moments along the way.
There’s nothing like lifting the Stanley Cup. A lack of fans in Edmonton didn’t stop captain Steven Stamkos from letting out a roar as he hoisted Lord Stanley above his head.
That is the obvious, hands-down best moment of the playoffs, but here are our top five in-game moments of the Lightning’s run to the Cup.
No. 5: Victor Hedman’s overtime goal
Hedman stepped up his game in the playoffs. He always has been involved on the offense, but he started sinking lower into the zone and taking more shots — none bigger than the one to advance past the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Hedman carried the puck almost to the left faceoff dot before letting loose a wrist shot, while winger Pat Maroon screened the goalie.
After he watched the puck go in, Hedman turned toward his bench, arms out in front, and spun back toward his teammates on the ice, sheer elation on his face.
No. 4: Beating Columbus
Center Brayden Point’s second overtime goal came on what looked like an innocuous play. The Lightning dumped the puck in and the Blue Jackets recovered it, then bobbled it. Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev recovered the puck and quickly found Point alone in the slot. Point made the finish look easy.
The Lightning had eliminated Columbus, the team that swept them last year, and were moving on in the playoffs.
The fist pump coach Jon Cooper gave after going through the handshake line said it all. Finally, with this win, the Lightning could put last year’s historic collapse behind them and focus on this year’s playoffs.
No. 3: Cooper’s triple fist pump
The fist pump after the Columbus series had nothing on Cooper’s reaction to the Game 2 win over the Islanders in the conference final.
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The Lightning played most of the game with nine forwards: Point got hurt and Alex Killorn was given a game misconduct. Somehow, they gutted out a win.
In the game’s final seconds, defenseman Ryan McDonagh pinched down almost to the goal line to retrieve the puck and snapped it across the zone to right wing Nikita Kucherov below the opposite circle. Kucherov landed the one-timer and Cooper celebrated hard on the bench.
Team owner Jeff Vinik mimicked the move at Wednesday’s celebration rally at Raymond James Stadium, but as he said, Cooper did it better.
No. 2: Point’s goal in the fifth overtime
Neither Columbus nor the Lightning wanted to start the playoffs with a loss. They dug in and played five overtimes before finding a winner.
The Lightning were throwing the puck toward the net. A save bounced back out to them, then a blocked shot before Point corralled the puck on its edge and flung the wrist shot on net.
Cooper has said it multiple times since: if the Lightning lose that game, Columbus could very well get in their heads. If you come back from the embarrassment of last year only to lose to that same team, this playoff run may not have ended with the Cup.
No. 1: Stamkos' storybook goal
The questions started in March and continued into September: Would Stamkos play in the postseason? For a long time, there was no answer, only an increasingly small probability
But the captain made it onto the ice for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final. He played fewer than three minutes, but he made the appearance count. Cooper called it the most efficient five shifts of hockey.
Stamkos landed a power-play goal from below the right faceoff dot and leapt into Maroon’s arms, while the bench absolutely erupted.
The team’s reaction to that goal — the second of the game, scored early in the first period — topped all of the overtime winners or anything else until they got their hands on the Cup.
2020 Stanley Cup victory print: Lightning championship poster coming to Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times newspaper