Canadiens vs. Lightning Top Moments, Reaction, Takeaways from 2021 NHL Finals

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJuly 10, 2021

The Tampa Bay Lightning team poses with the Stanley Cup after Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals against the Montreal Canadiens, Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

When NHL fans look back at the 2021 Stanley Cup Final in the future, the series will serve as a reminder of just how dominant the Tampa Bay Lightning have been for numerous seasons. And there's a chance their reign as champions may keep on going from here.

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup for the second straight season by defeating the Montreal Canadiens in five games, ending the series with a 1-0 win in Game 5 in Tampa on Wednesday night. Although the Habs had been the surprise story of the postseason, they proved to be no match for the Bolts.

Considering Tampa Bay made a repeat run to the Stanley Cup Final on the strength of its defense, it was fitting that Montreal had the puck in the final seconds of Game 5, trying to break through. But that was a difficult task this postseason, which Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy, made sure of.

Tampa Bay cleared the puck with about eight seconds remaining, sparking a Cup celebration in front of its home fans:

NBC Sports @NBCSports

The moment the @TBLightning went BACK TO BACK. The Tampa Bay Lightning are #StanleyCup Champions again! @NHLonNBCSports https://t.co/gER18BF8tc

The Lightning won the Cup less than a year earlier, as they emerged from the NHL bubble as champions, ending an unorthodox season that featured a hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This time, they got to win the Stanley Cup on their home ice at Amalie Arena.

"We didn't get a chance to do that last year," Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos said, per Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press. "This is redemption for them to be able to spend this time with us. We wanted to win in Game 4. It didn't work out. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise we got to do it front of our amazing fans."

If the Lightning had won Game 4 and swept the Canadiens, their championship celebration would have been in Montreal in front of a disappointed crowd of Habs fans. That was something Tampa Mayor Jane Castor didn't want, even though it required Tampa Bay to lose its first game of the series.

Castor made comments about wanting the Lightning to win at home in Game 5, which drew some criticism, considering one game can potentially shift the momentum of a series. However, things worked out for Tampa Bay in the end.

And Castor's reaction following the Lightning's second straight Cup win was one of the best on Twitter:

Jane Castor @JaneCastor

Now didn't I tell you all that winning at home would feel great?! #GoBolts #StanleyCup https://t.co/QHpV2soIkG

Tampa is turning into a city filled with champions. In between the Lightning's pair of Stanley Cup wins, the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl LV and MLB's Tampa Bay Rays won the American League pennant, making an appearance in the 2020 World Series.

Both teams tweeted congratulations to the Lightning, who kept the city's run of sports success going:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @Buccaneers

WE KNOW THAT’S RIGHT! #TeamTampaBay | #GoBolts https://t.co/2IYZX2Q5hs

Tampa Bay Rays @RaysBaseball

🚨 They did it again! 🚨 Congratulations, @TBLightning!!! #ChampaBay https://t.co/EXoI66Mr48

Because the Lightning were so dominant in the Stanley Cup Final, many of the most memorable moments occurred once the final game had ended. Tampa Bay rarely faced adversity in the series, and it pretty much didn't at all outside of its 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4 in Montreal.

One of those incredible moments came when Lightning head coach Jon Cooper relished the Cup victory with the team's fans in the arena following Game 5, which was captured and shared by Sportsnet on Twitter:

Sportsnet @Sportsnet

Jon Cooper mouths "I love you" to the fans while raising Stanley. πŸ₯ΊπŸ’™ #ItsOn | #StanleyCup https://t.co/eUcaShpkV1

It's impossible to talk about the Lightning's back-to-back Cup victories without looking ahead. No team has completed a three-peat since the New York Islanders won four straight Cups from 1980-83. Can Tampa Bay become the first since then to accomplish that feat?

If the Lightning can, it will be with a slightly different team. Many of their top players are still under contract for the 2021-22 season, but some other key contributors will be free agents. And they may not have the cap space to bring everybody back.

"The team knows they're probably not going to be together next year," Cooper told Sportsnet. "That was the conversation: Don't let this end. What a group. Expansion. Cap. Everything. We weren't going to go out without raising that trophy."

That's not saying the Lightning can't do it again, though. Those players who will be back know what it takes to get it done, not just once, but twice.Β Β