Cale Makar won the Conn Smythe trophy with 29 points in 20 games, and Captain Gabriel Landeskog took a quick skate with the Cup before passing it off to the longest tenured Av (and Denver pro athlete) Erik Johnson.
That’s it, that’s all you need to know. Get off the internet and celebrate! But here’s how it happened anyway.
Nathan Mackinnon’s line started out against Nick Paul centering Alex Killorn and Brandon Hagel - a slight change with Paul replacing Cirelli who was too injured to play center and instead played wing tonight.
Makar immediately took an interference penalty, as he hit Hagel slightly early on a long pass coming his way from deep in tampa’s defensive zone.
On the Penalty Kill, Darren Helm got an early clear after Tampa struggled to set up. They brought it right back in, but nice stick work from Jack Johnson in the slot freed up the puck for Valeri Nichuskin to clear.
Tampa’s second power play unit got set up cleanly, but only played around on the outside a bit until Mikhail Sergachev blasted a rocket shot off Andrew Cogliano, who got the clear.
With Makar out of the box, the Avs tried to get their forecheck going but ice the puck instead, leading to a draw that Steven Stamkos won back to Nikita Kucherov for a chance that missed wide.
Mackinnon took a high hit in the neutral zone and Tampa got the puck in deep behind the net where Kucherov and MacKinnon tied up in a battle for it. Makar swooped in to skate up ice, but Kucherov fell into his stick and knocked it free. It bounced off Ondrej Palat’s foot right to Stamkos who beat Darcy Kuemper clean through the five hole at 3:48.
Tampa really dominated the first five minutes, even though their early powerplay wasn’t effective, and had Colorado on their heels.
MacKinnon’s line finally established some extended pressure and a couple nice chances, but no actual shots on goal. Then a weird bounce off the boards on a dump in nearly sprung Compher on an open net but it was not quite close enough to him.
Colorado ramped up their play after that, establishing their pace as the game went 7:30 without a whistle.
Cogliano blocked a Kucherov shot off the faceoff, launching a counterattack where Rantanen dished from the far board to Lehkonen at the far dot, who threaded a spinning backhand pass to MacKinnon at the near dot, but a fantastic block by Cernak foiled the scoring chance.
Then Rantanen wired a puck across the crease to Lehkonen off of a faceoff win, but he hit the post.
Tampa Bay responded a bit as Jan Rutta got a long shot in on Kuemper after some pressure from their third line pressure, but Darcy swallowed it up easily.
Stamkos landed a heavy hit on MacKinnon by the Avs bench, but the puck got out of the zone to Rantanen who danced through Palat and McDonagh in the right circle, and fed it back to EJ at the point for a shot that got blocked.
Overall a really entertaining period. Tampa took the early powerplay to build momentum and control play for the first six minutes, culminating in the Stamkos goal off a puck that bounced right to him – lucky play, but they earned the luck to that point in the game. Colorado responded with some strong shifts after that and slightly tilted the ice back in their favor, though outside a couple of nice plays by the top line never really established their usual dangerous game.
Tampa found a formula to nullify the Avs aggressive forecheck, and it seems the Avs backed off a bit. They needed to keep ramping up the pace of play and create some chaos in front of Vasilevskiy to beat him.
Same lines started, and the Avs got the puck in deep where Lehkonen crushed Cernak, then set up Makar who ripped it over the net, off the back glass and out of play.
Hagel turned the puck up ice and tried to get by Makar, who smacked the puck away one handed. Hedman picked it up and missed Kucherov with a lead pass that ended up an icing.
Rantanen gets a point chance off the draw, but the puck bounces around a bit rather than making it on net. Paul attempted to clear the puck up the middle as the far referee put his arm up for a penalty, but Rantanen kept it in and it got it to Landeskog. The captain circled up the near boards and fed Byram at the top of the zone for a one touch pass down to MacKinnon below the far right dot and he buried a one timer through Vasilevskiy’s blocker just under two minutes into the period.
Stamkos complained about something and the refs take a look at it. Though there was confusion on the ice and the broadcast, eventually we learned that Tampa thought that Paul had touched the puck after the penalty, but the ref’s arm wasn’t actually up yet so it was not a thing.
Tampa pushed back a bit, as Bellemare got a chance in front that Kuemper stopped easily. Hagel then missed wide off great feed from Cirelli. The battle in front of Kuemper got chippy, as Hagel elbowed Makar in the face right before Cirelli cross checked Toews down - none of which was called.
Manson then pushed the puck up through the middle and tried to feed Mackinnon on the left dot, but it bounced back to him for stuff chance that Vasilevskiy shut down. Manson ended up in a heap behind the net but got up ok.
Both teams top lines then traded a couple chances until Stamkos mugged Byram behind the Avs net after he deflected a Kucherov shot up into the netting.
After Kucherov got a quality chance off a won faceoff, Makar rifled a home run pass to Compher that got blown dead for offside because Kucherov had tied up Landeskog in the zone by the bench.
Kadri then led a rush chance, fed a pass to Nichuskin in the slot for a quality chance. Byram snapped that rebound back on net from the dot but could not beat Vasilevskiy.
Tampa managed to clear off the faceoff, but Mason then led a rush down the same wall, dished to MacKinnon who tried a return pass that bounced the other way to Lehkonen who beat Vasilevskiy clean up over the glove at 12:28. Finally, a lead!
Pat Maroon took a huge hack at Manson’s leg after the goal, no penalty somehow. Maroon was mad Manson and Bellemare had been tied up earlier in the play, but Bellemare was actually holding Manson’s stick so it was nothing to be mad at. And plus, you still can’t just hack a dude’s leg off when you’re angry. But that’s playoffs baby, rules don’t exist!
After some more back and forth, the Avs fourth line established the zone and Ryan McDonagh decked Darren Helm with a huge shove directly in the numbers in the near corner. That’s boarding, and that rule did exist — Colorado got two minute power play with a chance to extend the lead to 3-1.
The power play wasn’t very effective however, as they lost a draw to start, MacKinnon turned over reentry, then swept his next entry around the boards where Killorn stole it from Landy for a shorthanded break that Kuemper had to stand strong to stop. And he did, flashing the right pad out neatly.
The second unit was able to set up but didn’t do much, as Byram sent an unscreened shot on net that Vasilevskiy easily swallowed. Landeskog won the ensuing offensive zone draw, and Rantanen launched a long shot in with the captain screening, but Vasy tracked it anyway. Mackinnon won the next draw for a Kadri shot that missed wide but found its way back to MacKinnon. who narrowly missed on a cross crease feed to Rantanen that would have been a tap in before the penalty to McDonagh expired.
The teams finished out the period with a couple chances each, with Toews snuffing out nifty Kucherov-Palat attempt before Nichuskin slipped down attempting a cut to the slot in front of the Bolts net. O’Connor got a last second shot from the far dot to close out a fantastic second period for the Avalanche.
It was a really strong period for Colorado - obviously netting two goals and giving up zero is pretty good - as play was mostly in the Tampa defensive zone and when it was not, the Lightning largely weren’t able to get the puck into the slot or any other dangerous positions. Kuemper did his job on the shots that did get through, and the team stayed out of the box. You gotta like it!
Cirelli replaced Paul on Tampa’s line against MacKinnon, so Hagel took the draw and won it, leading to a Cernak point shot blocked away by Mackinnon and then a Toews icing.
Kucherov was upended by a hip check from Kadri in the high slot, and after that play got cleared out the Avs turned it over for a 2-on-1 for Kucherov and Perry – Perry dished it nicely over a sprawling EJ but Kucherov missed wide.
The Avs forecheck got rolling after that, as Lehkonen won a battle behind Tampa’s net and fed it out to Nichuskin in the slot for point blank scoring chance that Vasilevskiy came way out to challenge and shut down.
Kadri then intercepted pass in the neutral zone for a mini breakaway, but missed high over blocker. Rantanen forced a Palat turnover from behind the net to Lehkonen, who dished to MacKinnon at the far dot but his shot was blocked out of play.
Even Nico Sturm got in on the forecheck action, forcing a Hedman icing that didn’t lead to anything. Every line established pressure and every line forced turnovers, but the Kadri line was a dominant force for most of this period.
He picked off another neutral zone pass, broke in and fed Nichuskin for another slot shot stopped by Vasilevskiy, but Tampa couldn’t clear. The Avs managed a full line change within the sustained pressure.
Then on their next shift, Landeskog and Kadri hemmed Tampa in for another extended play. With all that forechecking, the Lightning didn’t register a single shot on goal through ten minutes of the third period.
After the commercial break, the second line again forechecked hard and kept the Stamkos line in their defensive zone. Landeskog won the ensuing draw back to Byram who got a shot through, then Kadri fired the rebound on net from near dot and Nichuskin tried to jam that rebound between the post and pad.
Tampa finally woke up with eight minutes to go, as Kucherov double shifted with the Lightning fourth line and tried to dance through Helm just inside the blue line, but Helm kicked it free for Sturm to clear.
Stamkos then fed Palat in slot who tapped it on to Kucherov at the top of the near circle for a one timer that Kuemper anticipated nicely and caught cleanly in the belly.
Hedman cut in down the near board, fed back to Sergachev for a blast blocked by Byram, but the puck ricocheted right to Paul who shot it wide.
After that brief interlude, the Avs fantastic forecheck continued as Nichuskin stole one and fed Helm, who whiffed but managed to keep the puck deep with under three minutes to play.
Tampa finally established possession again, and Vasilevskiy went to the bench for an extra skater with 2:06 remaining. After getting set up, Kucherov got a chance blocked by Landeskog, then Killorn tipped a Hedman shot pass in the high slot barely wide and up out of play.
Tampa’s bench wanted another too many men on the ice call because Landeskog’s skate blade came off when he blocked the earlier Kucherov shot and he took forever getting off the ice. MacKinnon carried him part of the way but had to leave him to go defend, and Lehkonen jumped on perhaps a tad early but there was really not a call to be made there.
After a couple quick shots by Hedman and Hagel off the draw, the Avs tied up puck on the near wall in the defensive zone and killed 15 seconds before Palat dug it free back to Kucherov, whose shot was blocked down to MacKinnon and sent a dribbling clear that slows up just enough to not be icing because Hedman wasn’t going full speed to get it. That angers Hedman, but that doesn’t matter baby it’s over!!!
Sticks and gloves went flying as the Avalanche celebrated their first Stanley Cup championship in twenty years. Never forget Erik Johnson crying in his teammates arms folks, these are the moments we live for.