Ryan McDonagh, the thirty two year old defensemen, made five blocks, including a goal-saving block in the third period, while breaking away during an Islanders powerplay to set up a Yanni Gourde shorthanded goal mid-way through the second. It was all the Tampa Bay Lightning needed after the Game 6 heartbreaker on Wednesday.
Nikita Kucherov had the biggest celebration as the time winded down and Jon Cooper’s Lightning punched their ticket to the Finals. Kucherov, who only played one shift in Game 6, missed the entire regular season as the former league MVP dealt with a career-threatening hip injury. Now? Kucherov goes for his second consecutive cup as he leads the league in points this postseason, something only Wayne Gretzky has ever done in back-to-back seasons as Kucherov looks to etch his name alongside The Great One in history.
This was the first Game 7 in the history of the NHL to have a shorthanded goal be the lone score. It was Yanni Gourde after a Ryan McDonagh breakaway and an Anthony Cirelli assist. The bottom six held the Isles at bay, as Matt Barzal only took one shot on goal in the entire game, whereas the entire team had 18 total shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy saved all 18 attempts, his fourth consecutive series-clinching shutout for the Tampa Bay Lightning. No other goalie in NHL history has accomplished such feat. The Islanders were the only team to not allow a short-handed goal in the NHL this season and did so through the first 75 games. When it mattered, the time did not execute on their powerplay opportunity.
Steven Stamkos, who only played five minutes in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, accepted the trophy after the game as he looks to win his second Stanley Cup, but first where he was actually a difference maker after being with the franchise since 2008. Nikita Kucherov, despite not being 100%, looks to play through injury in the Finals for a second consecutive year as the best player in hockey hopes to further cement his legacy. Brayden Point, who didn’t make much noise in Game 7, saw his near-record nine game goal streak snapped yet hopes to start a new one as the Lightning look to win their third Stanley Cup in franchise history. Pat Maroon, the former St. Louis Blues winger, looks to win his third consecutive Stanley Cup. The loaded forward situation, featuring eleven stellar players such as Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn, must go through the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens, who have won 24 Stanley Cups, have not won since the 1992-1993 season. Since, the Lightning have won twice. But the Canadiens stellar defense such as captain Shea Weber and former All-Star Jeff Petry will have to deal with their toughest challenge yet. Carey Price, the excellent goaltender for the Canadiens, looks to shut down the Bolts in the matchup between two former Vezina recipients. The Stanley Cup finals will begin on Monday.
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