Jun 11, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) and left wing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (41) celebrate after defeating the New York Rangers in game six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the third year in a row, the Tampa Bay Lightning are heading to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Lightning lost the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals to the New York Rangers. But they won Games 3 and 4 at home, then came away with a win at Madison Square Garden in Game 5 to give themselves a chance to win the series with a Game 6 victory. Tampa Bay did just that, prevailing in a tense battle to win Game 6 2-1 and the series 4-2.

The critical sequence of Game 6 came in the third period. With the Lightning ahead 1-0, New York’s Frank Vatrano scored a power play goal with 6:53 to tie the game. The euphoria the Rangers experienced, though, was short-lived. Only 21 seconds after Vatrano tied the game, Steven Stamkos scored his second goal of the game to put Tampa Bay back on top.

Stamkos’ goal was reviewed for possible goaltender interference, but the call was upheld. Hockey fans were stunned by the thrilling sequence of events.

The Lightning held on from there, fighting off a late push from the Rangers.

The Lightning are now going for their third straight Stanley Cup. No team has won three straight Stanley Cups since the New York Islanders, who won four straight from 1980-1983. Since then, the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins have both repeated twice and the Detroit Red Wings repeated once, but none of those teams even reached a third consecutive Stanley Cup Finals.

So, the Lightning are already doing something that hasn’t been done in a long time. That earned them a lot of well-deserved praise.

The Colorado Avalanche are awaiting Tampa in the Stanley Cup Finals. Game 1 will be played in Colorado on Wednesday, June 15 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

[NHL, Shayna]

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