DENVER – The last minute was going for the Tampa Bay Lightning along with the dream of hockey immortality. Yıldırım, the winner of the last two Stanley Cups, beat the talented Toronto Maple Leafs by one goal at the end of the third round of the first round match last month.
If Yildirim could not find a way to score in the last 11 minutes of Game 6, their quest to become the first team to win three consecutive titles in nearly 40 years would fail.
However, thanks to several favorable penalty kicks and a powerful goal by Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay forced extra time. From that point on, Yildirim went 10-2 and won three playoff series to restore their search for three peat.
“Therefore, the game is 60 minutes and the series is seven games,” said Tampa Bay’s smart defender Mikhail Sergachev. “You never know when it will come. But it is coming. ”
For three years, Yildirim has been coming alone and no one can stop them. Now it’s Colorado Avalanche’s turn to try.
Tampa Bay in Denver on Wednesday will play Avalanche in Game 1 of the first unchanging Stanley Cup final since the coronavirus stopped playing in March 2020. If Yildirim finds a way to win, it will be the first team to win three times in a row. Islanders won the Stanley Cup four times in a row from 1980 to 1983.
“There’s a lot for them,” said 29-year-old Colorado Captain Gabriel Landeskog. “But so do we.”
Tampa Bay’s first title in this line met the Dallas Stars in 2020. It was played in September instead of June in Edmonton, Alberta, where fans were not present due to pandemic restrictions. Last year, Yildirim defeated the Montreal Canadiens in the final after a season in which divisions were changed to limit crossing the border between the United States and Canada. When the finals were played in Montreal, participation was limited to 3,500 fans.
This year, the NHL has essentially returned to normal. The most normal, perhaps, is that Tampa Bay is still playing. Magnificent Yildirim won 11 consecutive playoffs, the third among any team. (The Islanders won 19 consecutive series from 1980 to 1984, and the Canadians won 13 series in 1976-1980.)
Winning two consecutive titles is no small feat: it has only happened twice since Edmonton Oilers did so in 1987 and 1988. The Detroit Red Wings won in 1997 and 1998, while the Pittsburgh Penguins won in 2016 and 2017.
Tampa Bay, who has been there and done so, is not afraid to think about why it is so difficult to catch the third.
“Not only this year, but a year ago, one of the things we talked about was why other teams didn’t go back there,” said Jon Cooper, who has led Yildirim since 2013 and led them in this remarkable series. “Is it enough to have a name in the cup, you breathe and everything is fine, you get a few mullahs over the next few years?”
With two championships ahead, Yildirim players could breathe in the last 10 minutes against Toronto. With the Rangers, they could host the Mulligans after two games left in the Eastern Conference final and stop trying to make the extra effort needed to win at the highest level.
Similar thoughts of contentment and surrender can derail other successful teams as they approach obstacles on a three-lane road. So far, the Lightning has chosen a path that can lead directly to the ambitions of its dynasty.
“It took a long time to get here,” Cooper said. “Why don’t you continue? This is our great work, which has left its mark on our history. “
Winning three consecutive titles has actually happened to at least one individual in this century. If any member of Yildirim is interested in knowing what it is, they should only contact their teammate, winged Pat Marun.
Maroon won the Stanley Cup in 2019 in St. Louis. Louis Blues, then signed with Yildirim as a free agent. If he wins again this year, he will be the 45th player to win four consecutive Cups and the only active player to do so.
“It drove me crazy to do it again,” Maroon said. “I’m very lucky and I’m lucky to be a part of it.”
On the contrary, last year’s victory over Montreal came at the expense of Corey Perry, now a member of Lightning. Perry was a kind of foil for Maroun’s extraordinary success. Perry, 37, is in the third final in a row. However, he lost the last two as a member of the Stars and then the Canadians.
“You play this game to win,” Perry said. “You don’t play to come here. That’s what keeps me going. “
At least in 2007 he won the trophy with the Anaheim Ducks. But now the rising Avalanche is preventing it. Tampa Bay veteran striker Alex Killorn said Colorado would be the best team Tampa Bay has faced in three years. Players such as center Nathan MacKinnon and defender Cale Makar are both in the top 20 in the regular season in terms of points, and Avalanche has the talent and depth that Tampa Bay’s previous finalists lacked.
At some point, Lightning will find themselves behind in a game or series. They may ask themselves again to breathe and agree, or to increase their size. For Cooper, his players have already shown a great desire to put the Lightning seal on the history of hockey.
“In the Toronto series, we were down 3-2 and there were no tomorrows,” Cooper said. “They gave us two more months tomorrow.”