Tampa Bay Lightning repeat as Stanley Cup champions with Game 5 win against Montreal Canadiens

The Tampa Bay Lightning are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions after defeating the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

They are the second team of the salary cap era to repeat, joining the 2016-17 Pittsburgh Penguins, though salary cap issues could make some parts of the team look different next season.

Still, the Lightning will have top scorers in Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, a top defenseman in Victor Hedman and a great goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“We’ve been knocking at the door for so many years, and now to be able to do it back-to-back, that kind of cements this group as special," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Vasilevskiy had another strong bounce-back performance after a loss with a 22-save shutout to give the city its third championship in less than a year. The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in February.

KUCHEROV: Star doesn't hold back in press conference after Lightning win Stanley Cup

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos hoists the Stanley Cup after a 1-0 victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos hoists the Stanley Cup after a 1-0 victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5.

Vasilevskiy picked up the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP with his fifth shutout. Counting the 2020 Stanley Cup title, he has recorded shutouts in five consecutive series clinchers.

“I still can’t believe it," he said. "Obviously, the whole team deserves it for sure. Just to have five shutouts in one playoffs, it’s all about team.”

The Lightning won their 2020 championship in a bubble environment in Edmonton last fall, but this time, they got to celebrate in front of their fans at Amalie Arena. The Lightning are the first NHL team to clinch a Stanley Cup title at home since the Chicago Blackhawks did it in 2015 against Tampa Bay.

"We really wanted to seize this opportunity in front of the crowd, in front of family, and found a way to get it done," said defenseman Ryan McDonagh. "It's a great feeling. We're going to celebrate all night long."

A look at Game 5:

Rookie Ross Colton scores

Forward Ross Colton and defenseman David Savard weren't part of the Lightning's 2020 championship.

But they hooked up for the lone goal at 13:27 of the second period.

Savard took a pass from McDonagh, skated to the right faceoff circle and fed a pass out front, which Colton tipped past Montreal goalie Carey Price.

It was Colton's fourth goal of the playoffs. He had moved up to the second line after an injury to Alex Killorn.

Colton was in the American Hockey League last season when the Lightning made their run. Savard was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline with some clever salary cap maneuvering by Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois.

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy makes a save against Montreal Canadiens center Eric Staal.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy makes a save against Montreal Canadiens center Eric Staal.

Andrei Vasilevskiy shines

Because of Vasilevskiy's play, the Lightning didn't lose back-to-back games in two consecutive postseasons. He was 7-0 last season and 7-0 this season following a loss.

The Lightning played strong defense in front of him in Game 5, but he fended off Montreal's pressure before Colton's goal.

He also stopped Montreal's Josh Anderson and made a blocker save on Brendan Gallagher in the third period.

"I can't believe how he shuts the door in the biggest games of his career," Cooper said. "When he locks in, he's remarkable to watch."

The Lightning also blocked nine shots in front of Vasilevskiy. Barclay Goodrow had three of them, including a big one on the Canadiens' hard-shooting captain Shea Weber in the third period.

"That exemplifies everything with our team," Cooper said.

Patrick Maroon makes it three

Lightning forward Patrick Maroon picked up his third consecutive Stanley Cup title, including the 2019 one with the St. Louis Blues.

He's the first person to win three consecutive Cups with different teams since Ed Litzenberger did it with Chicago in 1961 and Toronto from 1962-64.

The Lightning didn't get their day with the Stanley Cup last year because of the pandemic.

"What we're hoping is to get two days with the Cup, back-to-back days, because we missed our day last year, so NHL, wake up," Maroon said.

Canadiens fall short

Price carried the 18th-place Canadiens to the Final and put together a second consecutive strong performance Wednesday night with 29 saves.

But he blamed himself partly for the loss in the championship round after recording a 4.39 goals-against average and .835 save percentage as the Canadiens fell behind 3-0 in the series.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think I played well enough at the start of the series," he said.

Weber quickly interjected: “I don’t think that’s the case at all, to be honest with you. I don’t think we were good enough in front of Carey. Give them credit. They’re a heck of a team. They were here for a reason, and they were better than us in the end."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lightning top Canadiens in Game 5 for Stanley Cup repeat