The 2019-20 and 2020-21 NHL seasons ended in the same way: The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrating a Stanley Cup victory. Only this time, it was a bit different than last year.
Last September, the Lightning beat the Dallas Stars in six games in the NHL bubble, ending a season that featured a hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic. Things were a bit more normal this year, as the Bolts' five-game series win over the Montreal Canadiens ended with the team celebrating in front of its fans on its home ice at Amalie Arena.
Tampa Bay captured the Cup with a 1-0 win in Wednesday's Game 5. And it shouldn't come as a surprise that it blanked Montreal, as goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy had a shutout in each of the Lightning's four series-clinching victories this postseason.
The last one didn't come without a final stand, though, as Tampa Bay's defense prevented a game-tying goal in the closing seconds before the crowd erupted in celebration:
Even though Vasilevskiy was dominant throughout the playoffs, he didn't take credit for the Lightning's strong defensive play throughout their run. The 26-year-old goaltender made sure that others got recognition, too.
"It's obviously the whole team deserves it for sure," Vasilevskiy said, per NHL.com's Dan Rosen. "Just to have five shutouts in one playoffs, it's all about team for sure. We were able to shut down the teams four times in a row in clinching games, just amazing. Can't say more. It's not about me, it's about our team."
But after Vasilevskiy became the 14th goaltender to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, there was plenty of praise that came in regarding his performance:
The Lightning aren't the only team in Tampa that has had success of late. In the time between their pair of Stanley Cup victories, the Tampa Bay Rays reached the World Series and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl LV.
All of this has happened since Tom Brady came to the city by signing with the Bucs. So perhaps he's brought some good luck with him.
Either way, there was plenty of reaction from around Tampa on Twitter following the Lightning's Cup repeat:
There were quite a few Lightning players who were part of both Cup-winning teams. However, Pat Maroon has now ended three consecutive seasons with a championship celebration, as the 33-year-old forward also won the Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019.
"This one was special," Maroon said, per NHL.com's David Satriano. "It's hard to win, and I was blessed to be a part of good teams and get on a roll. It's hard to go back to back, and to be a part of the group, that's so special. It's just amazing. I was glad my family got to come around the second time around and party with us."
Maroon is under contract through the end of the 2021-22 season, so he could be back to try to help the Lightning complete a three-peat. And if he's successful, it would mark four straight Cup victories for him, which would be an incredible run.