The Tampa Bay Lightning won their second Stanley Cup championship with a 2-0 win against the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Cup Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Monday.
Expectations were high last season when the Lightning won the Presidents' Trophy for having the best record in the NHL and tied a League mark with 62 wins. But after getting swept in the Eastern Conference First Round by the Columbus Blue Jackets, questions arose if their Cup window was closed.
More than six months after the season was postponed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, the Lightning proved the window was wide open. They won 18 games in the postseason, including the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, and won their first title since 2004.
[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]
Here are some of the highlights along the Lightning's road to the Stanley Cup:
BEST MOMENT: Steven Stamkos returns with a bang -- After not playing for seven months because of injuries, Stamkos, the Lightning captain, retuned for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final and scored a goal in 2:47 of ice time in a 5-2 win against the Stars. Although the forward was unable to play in the second or third periods and did not play the remainder of the postseason, it was an inspiring moment. "He only had five shifts but probably as efficient a five shifts as you're ever going to see in a National Hockey League playoff game," coach Jon Cooper said. "You have to marvel at it. It's pretty [darn] cool."
Video: TBL@DAL, Gm3: Stamkos returns to lineup with goal
TURNING POINT: Dec. 23 win against Florida Panthers -- Following a 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Dec. 21, the Lightning were 17-13-4. But a 6-1 win against the Panthers was the start of a 10-game winning streak and a 23-2-1 run, which included a Tampa Bay-record 11-game winning streak from Jan. 29-Feb. 17. The Lightning were playing more to their identity and showing the League that they still were a Stanley Cup contender despite the first-round playoff loss last season.
Video: Hedman scores twice as Kucherov reaches milestone
BEST MOVES MADE: Signing Kevin Shattenkirk, Pat Maroon -- Tampa Bay took a chance signing Shattenkirk to a one-year, $1.75 million contract after the defenseman had the final two seasons of his contract bought out by the New York Rangers. Shattenkirk scored eight goals in 70 regular-season games, more than his previous two seasons combined (seven in 119 games). Maroon, who won the Cup with the St. Louis Blues last season, scored 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) and had 71 penalty minutes in 64 regular-season games, and the forward provided leadership in the locker room as the only player on the roster who previously had won the Cup.
Video: TBL@DAL, Gm6: Maroon speaks after Lightning win Cup
BEST MOVES NOT MADE: Keeping team intact -- One season after a stunning first-round exit, the Lightning didn't panic. They knew they had the players to compete for the Cup and kept the roster mostly intact. The only significant moves made were trading forward J.T. Miller to the Vancouver Canucks on June 22, 2019, and signing Shattenkirk and Maroon in free agency, each of whom has been a valuable addition. The core, including forwards Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Stamkos, and defenseman Victor Hedman, proved that their Cup window was wide open after last season's failure.
SIGNATURE WIN (REGULAR SEASON): Feb. 17 at Colorado Avalanche -- A tough three-game road trip began in Colorado before stops at the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes. Trailing 1-0 after the first period, Alex Killorn, Cameron Gaunce and Stamkos scored in the second for a 3-1 lead before Colorado tied it in the third. Kucherov won it at 3:03 of overtime to give the Lightning a 4-3 victory and their team-record 11th straight win.
Video: Lightning set team record with OT win
SIGNATURE WIN (PLAYOFFS): Game 6 against Stars, Stanley Cup Final -- After failing to close out the series in Game 5, the Lightning made the most of their second chance. A first-period goal from Point turned out to be the game winner in a 2-0 victory. Blake Coleman scored in the second, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 22 saves for his first shutout of the playoffs. The Lightning took the traditional picture with the Cup before it was awarded to Stamkos in an iconic image.
Video: Lightning defeat Stars, win Stanley Cup Final
MVP: Victor Hedman -- A Norris Trophy finalist each of the past four seasons, Hedman scored 55 points (11 goals, 44 assists) and averaged 24:04 of ice time in 66 regular-season games. He managed to elevate his game in the postseason, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, scoring 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) with a plus-13 rating and averaging 26:38 of ice time in 24 games. In addition to his three game-wining goals, Hedman made his presence felt defensively as well, breaking up passes and making key blocks throughout the postseason.
Video: TBL@DAL, Gm6: Hedman receives Conn Smythe Trophy
ROOKIE OF YEAR: Carter Verhaeghe -- Only three rookies played for the Lightning this season, and Verhaeghe made the most impact. Acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders on July 1, 2017, the forward scored 13 points (nine goals, four assists) and averaged 9:22 of ice time in 52 regular-season games. He has two assists in eight playoff games.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Kevin Shattenkirk -- In addition to his scoring, which included seven points (one goal, six assists) on the power play, Shattenkirk was an NHL career-best plus-22 in 70 regular-season games. He came up big in the playoffs with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) and averaging 19:30 of ice time in 25 games. He scored the winner in a 5-4 overtime victory in Game 4 of the Cup Final.
Video: TBL@DAL, Gm4: Shattenkirk nets PPG, wins Game 4 in OT