The Lightning entered the postseason as the No. 3 seed in the eight-team Discover Central Division and defeated the No. 2 Florida Panthers in six games in the first round and the No. 1 Carolina Hurricanes in five games in the second round.
Tampa Bay defeated the New York Islanders in seven games in the Stanley Cup Semifinal to advance to the Cup Final for the second straight season. It was the Lightning’s third Stanley Cup championship; they defeated the Dallas Stars in six games last season and the Calgary Flames in seven games in 2004.
Here’s a look at the Lightning’s road to the Stanley Cup:
The Lightning’s first game of the playoffs had nine goals scored and five lead changes. Blake Coleman scored a shorthanded goal in the first period to open the scoring, and Nikita Kucherov, playing in his first game of the season after offseason hip surgery, scored two power-play goals in the second. Florida scored twice in the first 4:09 of the third to take a 4-3 lead but Brayden Point scored a power-play goal with seven minutes remaining before scoring the go-ahead goal with 1:14 left to give the Lightning a 1-0 series lead.
Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat scored in the first period for a 2-0 lead before Mason Marchment‘s goal in the second made it 2-1 heading into the third period. Yanni Gourde scored an empty-net goal with 1:25 remaining, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves, including 13 in the third period, for the win and a 2-0 series lead.
The Panthers got off to a fast start with first-period goals from Sam Bennett and Radko Gudas, but the Lightning responded with five goals on 12 shots in the second period to take a 5-3 lead. Patric Hornqvist scored a power-play goal 1:45 into the third and Gustav Forsling scored at 16:53 to tie the game 5-5. Ryan Lomberg scored 5:56 into overtime to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series. Sergei Bobrovsky made nine saves in relief of Chris Driedger and got the win.
Anthony Cirelli, Gourde and Palat each scored in the first period for the Lightning, who had a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes. Alex Killorn scored two goals and four points, and Kucherov had a goal and three assists. Tampa Bay scored two power-play goals and Vasilevskiy made 39 saves for a 3-1 series lead.
Ross Colton scored 53 seconds into the game for a 1-0 Lightning lead but the Panthers responded with two goals on 11 shots in the second period. Spencer Knight made 36 saves in his playoff debut, and Hornqvist scored a power-play goal 35 seconds into the third to help Florida avoid elimination. Frank Vatrano‘s empty-net goal with 15 seconds remaining sealed the victory.
Pat Maroon‘s first-period goal was all the Lightning would need to win the game and the series. Stamkos had a goal and an assist, Nikita Kucherov had two assists and Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for the shutout.
Point scored a power-play goal for a 1-0 first-period lead before Jake Bean‘s power-play goal tied the game in the second. Barclay Goodrow‘s goal at 12:39 of the third period turned out to be the game winner for Tampa Bay, which got 37 saves from Vasilevskiy and took a 1-0 series lead.
The Lightning scored first for the fifth-straight game when Killorn gave them a 1-0 lead at 7:09 of the second period. Cirelli extended the lead at 8:06 of the third and Vasilevskiy made 31 saves. Andrei Svechnikov scored late in the third with the goalie pulled for an extra skater, but Tampa Bay held on for the win.
After neither team scored in the first, the Hurricanes scored twice in the first 7:40 of the second. Point and Killorn each scored a power-play goal to tie the game 2-2 in the second. The game went to overtime and Jordan Staal got Carolina back in the series with a power-play goal at 5:57.
Point’s seventh goal of the playoffs gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead before eight goals were scored in the second period, four from each team. The Hurricanes had a 4-2 lead before Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Stamkos scored in the final 5:22 of the second period to give the Lightning a 5-4 lead. Kucherov and Stamkos each had two goals and an assist, and the Lightning moved within one win of the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
Point scored the first goal for the second straight game to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 second period lead. Colton scored in the third, and Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for his third straight shutout in a series-clinching game dating to last season to send the Lightning to the Semifinals.
Mathew Barzal gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead midway through the second period before Ryan Pulock made it 2-0 at 5:36 of the third. Point scored a power-play goal with 54 seconds remaining and Vasilevskiy pulled for an extra skater, but the Islanders withstood a push and held on to take a 1-0 series lead.
Point gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead in the first with his 10th goal of the playoffs. Brock Nelson scored less than five minutes later to tie the game 1-1. Tampa Bay then scored the next three goals, including a third-period power-play goal by Victor Hedman, to take a 4-1 lead. Kucherov had three assists and Vasilevskiy made 24 saves to even the series.
Point scored for a sixth straight game and it turned out to be the game winner. Gourde gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead in the first before Cal Clutterbuck tied it late in the second. Point then scored with 20 seconds remaining in the second period and the Lightning held on for the victory and took the series lead.
New York scored three times in the second period to take a 3-0 lead on goals by Josh Bailey, Barzal and Matt Martin. But Point and Johnson scored in the first seven minutes of the third to make it 3-2. The Lightning’s rally came up short when Pulock blocked a shot along the goal line by Ryan McDonagh with 2.7 seconds remaining that would have tied the game.
Tampa Bay scored eight goals, including three in the first and three in the second. Stamkos scored 45 seconds into the game and the Lightning never looked back. Stamkos and Killorn each scored twice and had an assist and Tampa Bay scored three power-play goals. Kucherov had three assists and Point scored for an eighth straight game. Vasilevskiy made 21 saves for his third shutout of the playoffs and Tampa Bay took a 3-2 series lead.
With a chance to earn a trip back to the Cup Final, the Lightning took a 2-0 lead on goals by Point, who scored in his ninth straight game, and Cirelli. Jordan Eberle scored at 14:22 of the second and Scott Mayfield‘s goal at 11:16 of the third tied the game 2-2. It took 68 seconds into overtime before Anthony Beauvillier scored for New York to force Game 7.
The Lightning outshot the Islanders 15-5 in the first but neither team scored in the first 20 minutes. With New York on a power play early in the second, Gourde scored a shorthanded goal for a 1-0 lead. Vasilevskiy made 18 saves for his fourth shutout and fourth straight in a series clincher to send the Lightning back to the Stanley Cup Final.
Erik Cernak‘s first goal of the playoffs gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 first-period lead. Gourde extended it to 2-0 before Ben Chiarot got Montreal within one late in the second. Kucherov scored twice in the third and Stamkos added a power-play goal with 1:10 remaining to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead in the series.
Cirelli and the Lightning had a 1-0 lead in the second before Nick Suzuki scored less than four minutes later for a 1-1 tie. With 1.1 seconds remaining in the period, Coleman scored a diving goal, chipping in a pass from Goodrow. Palat scored in the third and Vasilevskiy made 42 saves to give Tampa Bay their fifth straight home win and a 2-0 series lead.
Tampa Bay got off to a fast start scoring twice in the first 3:27 on goals by Jan Rutta and Hedman. Philipp Danault got the Canadiens within 2-1 at 11:16 of the first but it was all Lightning from there. Carey Price allowed five goals for the second time in the series after not allowing that many in his first 17 playoff games. Johnson scored twice, Hedman had two assists and Vasilevskiy made 32 saves to move the Lightning within one win of the Cup.
Josh Anderson scored at 15:39 into the first period for a 1-0 Montreal lead before Goodrow’s goal at 17:20 of the second made it 1-1. The Canadiens took the lead when Alexander Romanov scored at 8:43 of the third but Maroon tied it 2-2 with 6:12 remaining. Anderson scored his second of the game 3:57 into overtime to help the Canadiens avoid being swept.
Colton scored the only goal at 13:27 of the second period, and Vasilevskiy made 22 saves for his fifth shutout of the playoffs and fifth straight in a series-clinching game. Vasilevskiy, who played every minute of the playoffs going 16-7 with a 1.90 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and five shutouts, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP.