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Will this Cup final have a happier ending for Lightning’s Corey Perry?

The veteran forward is chasing his second career Stanley Cup (first since 2007) after losing to Tampa Bay in the two previous finals.
Sure, Lightning right wing Corey Perry has won one Stanley Cup once, earlier in his career. But the motivation, even after all these years in the league, is "to win not just the one, but ... another one after that."
Sure, Lightning right wing Corey Perry has won one Stanley Cup once, earlier in his career. But the motivation, even after all these years in the league, is "to win not just the one, but ... another one after that." [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jun. 21

TAMPA — Either the Lightning will win a third straight Stanley Cup and seal a dynasty run the hockey world hasn’t experienced in nearly four decades. Or Corey Perry will miss out on hoisting the holy grail after a third consecutive trip to the final.

Perry, 37, won the Cup with Anaheim back in 2007, but over the past two seasons he has knocked at the door without an answer from Lord Stanley. He is hoping this year is different.

“I’m excited to be where I am right now, I’ll tell you that,” Perry said ahead of Game 1 at Colorado. “You don’t play this game just to get here. Everybody’s dreams as a kid is playing in the Stanley Cup final, lifting the Stanley Cup, or Game 7, or the last goal wins. And you’re in your backyard rink and that’s the first thing that comes to your mind when your dad says it’s dinner time. It’s next goal wins, or it’s overtime.

“You play this game to win and that’s what keeps me going is I want to win not just the one, but I want to win another one after that.”

Lightning right wing Corey Perry (10) celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final on Monday night.
Lightning right wing Corey Perry (10) celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final on Monday night. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Perry is the second player in league history to reach a third consecutive Cup final with a different team, joining Marian Hossa, who went to the final with the Penguins in 2008, the Red Wings in 2009 and the Blackhawks in 2010 (the year Chicago won it all).

“You don’t want to be that guy that three times came here and didn’t win,” said Bally Sports Sun analyst Brian Engblom. “And knowing Corey, I wouldn’t doubt at all at some time in the series he has to stand up and say, ‘I’m not losing again.’ You know how far that would travel, and I wouldn’t doubt he would say it in a clutch situation.”

Related: Lightning’s Victor Hedman will find out if he’s a Norris Trophy winner tonight

It took Perry 13 seasons to get back to a Cup final. Then, in 2019, Anaheim bought out the remaining two years of his eight-year contract.

That summer, Perry signed with the Stars, helping Dallas to its first final since 2000. Although he scored the game-winning goal in Game 5’s double-overtime victory over the Lightning, Perry couldn’t help the team even the series in Game 6 as Tampa Bay went on to win its first of two straight Cups.

In 2021 with Montreal, Perry’s chance at redemption was short-lived as Tampa Bay defeated the Canadiens in five games.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow when you go all that way, work that hard and come up that short,” Perry told ESPN’s Emily Kaplan during Monday’s Game 3 broadcast.

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Related: Lightning’s Game 3 win comes at a cost, as Nikita Kucherov leaves in third

After the Lightning lost Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow to free agency, and the Seattle expansion draft claimed Yanni Gourde last summer, they knew who they needed to help the team on another Cup run. Perry, an available free agent, fit the bill.

The future Hall of Famer “jumped” at the opportunity to sign a two-year, $2 million contract that could keep him in one place. Some reassurances from his future teammates helped, too.

“They’re still hungry to win and they want to win and you can see that in that dressing room,” Perry said.

Corey Perry make a play in front of the net against the Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final.
Corey Perry make a play in front of the net against the Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Center Alex Killorn understands how coming up short in back-to-back finals could “haunt” Perry, too. It’s a little extra motivation for the team to help him end his season differently than in previous years.

“He’s had such a great career. To be as close as he’s been in the past three years and not get the ultimate goal ... we obviously want to win, but it’s important for us to win in that sense as well,” Killorn said. “He brings a lot, leadership-wise. He’s a guy who’s seen a lot in this league, done a lot in the league, definitely a voice in the locker room.”

Related: Doubt the heart of this Lightning team at your own peril

Often skating on the fourth line — the “school bus” line with Maroon and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Perry has had a career revival of sorts with his first 40-point season (19 goals) since 2017-18 (49 points with Anaheim).

In Monday’s Game 3 win, Perry scored his sixth postseason goal (fourth on the power play), breaking a nine-game goal drought. He is the first player in NHL history to score a goal with four different teams in a Cup final.

“He just shows game in and game out he’s a warrior,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “He can play up and down the lineup. Big on the power play. We know from experience how hard he is to play against, so we’re very happy to have him on our side. ... He’s been very valuable for us, obviously.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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