There will be no Oui The North in hockey this year.
After a surprising six-week run through the playoffs, the Canadiens’ season came to an end with a 1-0 loss to the Lightning in Game 5 of the final round of the Stanley Cup.
It is the second straight coronation for Tampa Bay, which won last year’s National Hockey League championship in six games over Dallas in a pandemic-free bubble in Edmonton. The Lightning won Wednesday night before a packed crowd on home ice at Amalie Arena. It is their third Stanley Cup since they joined the league in 1992. Their other title came in 2004.
Steven Stamkos, the Lightning captain, was thrilled.
“It is amazing,” he told NBC minutes afterwards. “To do it in front of our fans, families and friends, that’s what means the most. We can’t wait to celebrate with them.”
Ross Colton, a rookie centre, scored the winning goal with 6:33 remaining in the second period. It was his first of the series and fourth of the postseason and followed a brilliant pass by defenceman David Savard.
Tampa Bay is the first team to win back to back since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was spectacular throughout the playoffs, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the final round. He is the first goaltender to win the award since Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.
Vasilevskiy turned away 22 shots in Game 5. He went 7-0 in games that followed a loss in the 2021 playoffs and had four shutouts. He is 14-0 over the last two postseasons in games after a defeat.
It was a disappointing finish for the Canadiens, who reached the final round for the first time in 28 years. It is another year without a Stanley Cup for Canada; Montreal was the last Canadian team to win in 1993.
“It is hard right now,” Brendan Gallagher, Montreal’s feisty forward, said. He spoke haltingly and stumbled over his words. “We have so many players who have played so many games for so many years to get here. Right now it stinks.”
Tampa Bay left wing Patrick Maroon became the first player in NHL history to win three Stanley Cups in a row with two different teams. He won with St. Louis in 2019 and last year with the Lightning.
“Guys are stars in different ways,” Jon Cooper, the Tampa Bay head coach, said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “There are guys that are stars in the room and guys that are stars on the bench. When you get to the situation that we and Montreal are in, guys pitch in in different ways.
“The guys gravitate to Patrick. He always says the right thing when it is needed and he has got swag to him. He is a star in our book.”
The team that scored the first goal won each game in the series. The Canadiens ended up 12-2 in the playoffs when they scored first and 1-6 when they didn’t.
Montreal struggled to get untracked at the start on Wednesday. The Canadiens were outshot 13-4 in the first period but Carey Price was sharp for the second straight game. He had 32 saves in Monday’s triumph.
The Lightning’s best chance of the first period came when a wrist shot from Tyler Johnson clanked off the crossbar with 5:21 remaining.
The action picked up considerably over the second 20 minutes. Nikita Kucherov, who led all players during the postseason with 32 points, had a dangerous chance denied 2 minutes 44 seconds in. Vasilevskiy then stepped up and thwarted tries by Ben Chariot and Artturi Lehkonen.
Fans in the arena erupted when Colton finally broke the deadlock. As it turns out, it was the only goal Tampa Bay would score and the only one they needed.
Montreal was in a perilous state on Tuesday when it flew to Tampa to land ahead of tropical storm Elsa, which grazed Florida’s Gulf Coast and then made landfall Wednesday further to the north.
Only three teams had ever rallied from 3-0 down to force a Game 6 in the Stanley Cup final and only one had ever won it all. That was the Maple Leafs in 1942.
Nobody every expected the Canadiens to get this far. They won fewer times than they lost during the regular season and fell behind Toronto 3 games to 1 in the first round before winning the next three.
They swept Winnipeg and eliminated Vegas in the semi-finals in six games. The Lightning just proved to be too tough.
“Give them credit,” Shea Weber, Montreal’s captain, said. “They are a heck of a team. They were better than us.”
Weber is 35 and in his 15th season in the NHL. This was the first time he ever reached the Stanley Cup finals.
“A lot of us are at a loss for words right now,” Weber said. “You play for this reason, and it is hard to get this close. I am very proud. This group has a lot of character. We went up against a lot of adversity this year and proved people wrong.”
The Canadiens pushed hard for the tying goal but could not get a puck past Vasilevskiy. He made a spectacular save on a rush to the net by Josh Anderson early in the third.
Fans began to sing and chant. “We want the Cup,” they said over and over.
After three tough games to begin the series, Price played well in the final two. He ended up with 29 saves in the defeat. It was a bitter loss for him nonetheless. The 33-year-old was drafted by the Canadiens in 2005 and has spent his entire career with the organization. It was also his first time to reach the final round.
“It is incredibly disappointing,” Price said. “It is hard to look ahead right now.”
The crowd rose to its feet and cheered wildly for the final two minutes.
Eventually, Price skated to the bench so Montreal could put an extra attacker on the ice.
With 1:24 remaining Montreal called a timeout.
The Canadiens’ Tyler Toffoli got off a hard shot that Vasilevskiy stopped with 59 seconds to go.
When the clock wound down, the Lightning’s players dropped their sticks and hugged en masse by their net.
Montreal’s players stared glumly. They watched NHL commissioner Gary Bettman awarded the Conn Smythe trophy to Vasilevskiy. Then he presented the cup to the winning team.
“There are no moral victories,” Gallagher said. “Our expectation was to win the series. Our expectation was to be the team celebrating right now. That’s why it’s so painful.”