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TAMPA, FL - JULY 07: Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ross Colton (79) scores a goal late in the 2nd period to give Tampa Bay Lightning a 10 leads during Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals Hockey match between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens on July 7, 2021 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For the second time in nine months, the Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup champions.

The Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 on Wednesday to close out the Stanley Cup Finals in five games. The title is the Lightning’s third since their founding in 1992 and their second straight, joining the 2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins as the only champions to repeat this century.

Even though the Lightning repeated, it was a player who wasn’t with them at all last season who provided the series-winning goal. Rookie Ross Colton, playing in his 53rd career game after two years in the AHL, deflected a pass from David Savard to find the back of the net:

Ryan McDonagh provided the secondary assist. The goal was Colton’s fourth of the postseason and his first since the second round.

Lightning goalie Andre Vasilevskiy registered a shutout on 22 shots, continuing a remarkable streak of five straight shutouts in an elimination game. It was also his 15th straight win in a game following a loss.

A coronation for the Lightning

Outside of the Canadiens’ stay of execution in Game 4, the Lightning dominated all series. They won the first three games by a combined nine goals, and only lost Game 4 in overtime after outshooting Montreal 34-21.

It was more of the same in Game 5, with the Lightning outshooting the Canadiens 30-22 and holding advantages in Corsi, Fenwick and expected goals, via Natural Stat Trick.

That’s a performance so many expect, but few see from a reigning champ that only lost six games in last year’s playoffs. The Lightning were the clear best team in the bubble, then returned to the playoffs this season as the No. 3 team in the Central Division. Their biggest challenge came in the previous round, when the New York Islanders pushed them to seven games.

Canada’s Stanley Cup drought continues

Even in a playoff structure almost designed to give Canada its best shot at a title in years, the Canadiens falling short means one of the more curious droughts in sports will continue.

It has now been 28 years since the Canadiens hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1993, and no Canadian team has won a title since. The Canadiens had been the first team from north of the border in 10 years to reach the Finals at all.

This year’s playoffs had been particularly Canada-friendly thanks to the temporary institution of the Canada division, with the country’s top four teams playing each other in the first and second rounds to guarantee one of the season’s final four teams would make it to the semifinals.

The Canadiens got there via a memorable comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games and a sweep of the Winnipeg Jets, then defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in six to book their first Finals since that 1993 championship. They just couldn’t go the distance.

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