NHL Stanley Cup Final 2021: Top Moments from Canadiens vs. Lightning Final

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJuly 11, 2021

NHL Stanley Cup Final 2021: Top Moments from Canadiens vs. Lightning Final

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    Phelan Ebenhack/Associated Press

    For the third time in their history, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the Stanley Cup champions. This time, they won the Cup less than a year after their previous championship celebration, as they also won it all inside the NHL bubble at the end of the 2019-20 season last September.

    While that Cup win was memorable, the Bolts didn't get the opportunity to share the Stanley Cup Final with their fans. That was one of the biggest differences this year, especially considering Tampa Bay ended the series in Game 5 on its home ice at Amalie Arena.

    The Lightning had an impressive postseason run, capped by a dominant showing against the Montreal Canadiens. Tampa Bay showcased exactly what has made it one of the top NHL teams of this era.

    Here's a look back at the top moments from this year's Stanley Cup Final.

Lightning Take Control Minutes into the Series

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The Lightning entered the Stanley Cup Final as the favorite to win. The Canadiens had an impressive run to make it there, but it was a surprise performance, considering Montreal had the fewest regular-season points of any of the 16 teams to reach the playoffs.

    Tampa Bay quickly made sure that Montreal wouldn't carry over the momentum from its previous three series wins, as Erik Cernak scored a goal 6 minutes, 19 seconds into Game 1, giving the Lightning control early on their home ice. That set the tone for not just that night, but for most of the series.

    The Bolts went on to win 5-1 in Game 1, even though Habs goaltender Carey Price had been stellar to that point in the postseason. Then, Tampa Bay never trailed in Games 2 and 3, either. But it all started with that convincing Game 1 win.

    "We have a game plan, and we have a recipe," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said after Game 1, per Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press.

    That proved to be the case in the games that followed, too.

Tampa Bay Keeps the Momentum Going in Montreal

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Even though the Lightning had a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, each of those first two games took place on their home ice. The Canadiens still had time to shift the momentum in the series, especially as they returned to Montreal to host Games 3 and 4.

    If the Habs were going to get back in the series, it had to start in Game 3, as a 3-0 lead had only been blown once before in the Stanley Cup Final (when the Toronto Maple Leafs came back against the Detroit Red Wings in 1942). The Bolts made sure that wouldn't be the case.

    In Game 3, Tampa Bay scored a pair of goals in the first three minutes and 27 seconds, as Jan Rutta and Victor Hedman each put pucks in the net. The Lightning led the rest of the way in the 6-3 victory. But it was those first two goals that essentially ended the idea of a potential Canadiens comeback in the series.

    Tampa Bay put itself in position for a Stanley Cup Final sweep. And while that didn't end up happening, it was still hugely important that it controlled the series so dominantly in the early going.

Vasilevskiy Shuts out Habs to Cap Incredible Series

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Both teams' goaltenders were having strong postseasons. Many predicted that one or the other would go on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy at the end of the Stanley Cup Final.

    That ended up being Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy. And he made an impressive final case in the series.

    Vasilevskiy recorded his fifth shutout of the playoffs in the Lightning's Game 5 win over the Canadiens. Tampa Bay scored only one goal in the contest, yet Vasilevskiy helped make sure that would be enough. The 26-year-old goaltender made 22 saves while blanking the Habs to end the season.

    "Just the absolute competitive gamer that we know he is," Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonagh said, per Whyno. "Night in, night out (the) backbone of this team."

    Vasilevskiy became the 14th goaltender to win the Conn Smythe Trophy and the first since Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.