Tampa, Florida – John Cooper had every reason to be sure that the two-time Stanley Cup champion, Tampa Bay Lightning, will be able to keep his bid for the top three.
“Our story is not over yet,” the coach said earlier this month when his team was on the verge of relegation in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. “We feel we have a lot left.”
Andrei Vasileuski is one of the reasons.
The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner has won six games in a row since Lightning trailed the Maple Leafs 3-2 in their starting series, including a gem in Game 7 of Toronto and four games against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Semifinals conference. .
Next up is Tampa Bay’s sixth trip to the Eastern Finals in eight years, where they will face the Carolina Hurricanes or the New York Rangers.
“We have found a recipe that has obviously allowed us to go deeper into the playoffs, especially in the last 2 of 1/2 years, and we want to continue it,” said captain Stephen Stamkas after Monday’s 2-0 draw. the win over Florida gave Lightning the first of a series of playoffs in 11 years.
“It’s the funniest, most annoying and nerve-wracking time of the year, but it’s just an amazing feeling,” Stamkas added. “You can’t describe it until you go through it, and this group has definitely gone through it.”
Vasilevsky made 49 saves and published the sixth lockout in the last seven wins in the series.
As he has scored three or more goals in each of Tampa Bay’s first six games against Toronto, he has dropped four in the last five games.
“My task is just to give our guys a chance to win, and I think we did a pretty good job doing it for the whole series,” Vasilevsky said, belittling the way he played over and over during his team’s championship. .
“Nothing special. I think that’s how the whole team plays in these games. The whole series is just constant blocks, sacrifices, and the guys are literally breaking bones to stop the puck,” added the goalkeeper. that’s not just me. I’m just trying to do my job as best I can. “
Pat Maroon, pursuing his fourth consecutive Stanley Cup champion, played a zero draw just over six minutes before the third period. Ondrej Palat added a goal to the empty net in the 22 seconds left for Lightning, whose two goals were banned during the 48-second period of the second period.
Lightning has joined the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens as the only franchise to have won at least 10 playoff series in a row. Maroon, who won with St. Louis in 2019 and signed a contract with Tampa Bay two years ago, has participated in 14 wins in a row.
“I was lucky to play with two very good teams over the last few years, but this team is very impressive,” said Maroon.
“Yes, as we compete. The way we behave in every game, we never get out of it. … It was very interesting to watch what we have gone through over the last few years, ”Marun added,“ and it is incredible to be a part of it. ”
Tampa Bay is the third franchise to win at least 10 playoff series in a row. Montreal has done this twice, taking 13 in a row from 1976-80 and 10 in a row from 1956-60. The New York Islanders won a record 19 wins in a row in 1980-84.
Two more wins in the series, and the Lightning will be the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cup titles since the Islanders won four in a row in 1980-83.
“Twelve would sound even better, wouldn’t it?” said forward Alex Killarn.
“It’s impressive. I know Coop mentioned it, and then Patty had 14. So he got one, but to be part of that group especially, ”Killarn added. “As I said, with Wasi. I think there are a lot of players in this team who will be pretty good players, Hall of Fame players. So I’m just happy to be a part of it, to be honest. ”
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