NHLTampa Bay Lightning

Anthony Cirelli Sends Bolts to Stanley Cup Finals

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In what assistant captain Ryan McDonagh called “one of the toughest series he’s ever played,” he gets to go onto his second Stanley Cup Final (2013-2014 with the Rangers) and Tampa’s second since the 2015 season which they lost to the Blackhawks.

Nikita Kucherov has tied Brad Richards for most points in franchise history in a single postseason, whereas Victor Hedman, who netted the Bolts first goal tonight, is three goals away from being the all-time single postseason goal scorer for a defenseman.

In a game eerily similar to game five, that had huge offsides calls from Cedric Paquette (in game five, it took away Carter Verhaeghe’s goal, tonight it took a clean shot away from Kucherov), a double minor heading into OT that gets called and a 1-1 game late, the outcome isn’t Eberle finding the net, but Anthony Cirelli of the Bolts.

In 2015, they didn’t pick up the trophy heading into the Finals. Tonight, with their captain Steven Stamkos not even taking the ice in the playoffs, they all touched it, with Alex Killorn lifting it up. Brayden Point returned to the lineup after missing both of the Lightning’s losses. Killorn expressed his heartbreak that the fans in Tampa could not be there.

The three stars of the game were Anthony Cirelli, Semyon Varlamov and Barclay Goodrow. Goodrow set up Cirelli’s series clincher, while Varlamov had a career high in saves and gave up two goals in only 50 shots. I’d also argue Mikhail Sergachev was Tampa’s biggest cog to not give it up outside of the always tremendous goaltending from Andrei Vasilivskiy. Sergachev blocked a number of shots Vasilevskiy didn’t get to.

It was almost disastrous for the Lightning, who also killed a penalty in overtime, on a too many on ice call. In the first period, the Islanders scored a goal after having seven players on the ice, instead of the usual five on five.

The Lightning have played 16 games, but due to 12 overtime periods, it’s an equivalent to 20. They will play the Dallas Stars in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. Game one is Saturday at 7:30 on NBC.

Kevin Shattenkirk of the Lightning called it “a pinch me moment” considering his 2019 season with a mediocre Rangers team that saw his contract getting bought out because he had played so subpar. Shattenkirk, as well as additions such as Patrick Maroon and Blake Coleman, have been major additions for the Lightning and could be the missing pieces to finally get that chip.

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