Bolts close out Rangers to reach another final

by Gary Shelton on June 12, 2022

in general

Stammer scored twice in Bolts' win./TIM WIRT

Sunday, 4 a.m.

For years now, since the modern-day dynasty was a baby, you have heard about the heart of a champion. But there is more to it than that.

How about the will of a champion?

The relentlessness of a champion?

The grit of a champion?

The belief of a champion?

The Tampa Bay Lightning, once again the champions of the Eastern Conference, checked every box in a 2-1 victory over the New York

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Vasilevskiy won another closeout./TIM WIRT

Rangers, their fourth win in a row over a strong New York team. Once again, the Bolts summoned that regal nature of theirs to win yet another series against yet another quality opponent.

The Bolts have now won 11 straight series, the third most in NHL history, to reach their third straight Stanley Cup finals.

This time, it was two goals by captain Steven Stamkos -- the second one coming just 21 seconds after the Rangers had tied the game -- and yet another sturdy game in goal by Andrei Vasilevskiy who beat back New York.

“It’s going to be tough to get out of the moment and look back and realize what a special group we have here," Stamkos said. "There’s still some games to be played. We’re not at the end of our goal. Staying that, this group is pretty amazing and pretty special.

" We don’t care how it gets done — it just needs to get done. Very proud of this group really ot. Were going to the finals again and we have a chance to do something very special."

Ryan McDonagh blocked six shots./TIM WIRT

The Bolts played perhaps their strongest game of the series --- only New York goaltender Igor Shesterkin kept the game close. New York coach Gerald Gallant also suggested that fatigue played a part -- the Rangers played 20 games in 40 days.

"You’ve got to look at the players," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I sit back and I’m impressed by them. It’s impressive what they’ve done. To watch their growth, watch their pain. They have every excuse in the world not to (succeed). No one would fault them. I’m damn impressed by this group."

Start with Stamkos, who now has 41 career playoff goals. He scored on a long shot to give the Bolts a 1-0 lead, then on a breakaway when the goal went off of his knee.

Iit’s not the individual," Stamkos said. "It’s great to score a couple of goals in a big game like this, but if I didn’t score and we won, I would have been just as happy. That’s the way the guys are on our team. Each guy plays a part. You  guys can discuss if it’s a big part or a little part. We know in the room that everyone plays a huge part in our group’s success."

When Stammer scored his second goal, there was little doubt that Andrei Vasilevskiy would make it stand up. Vasy gave up nine goals in the first two games of the series. He gave up five in the last four.

In his last eight series-clinching wins, Vasilevskiy has stopped 219 of 221 shots with six shutouts. No wonder Stamkos refers to him as "our backbone."

The Bolts won the series without Brayden Point. Victor Hedman also missed much of the game after being injured.

"Trust is the word,: Stamkos said. "We trust every guy who goes over those boards to do his job. Whether you score a goal or not, it’s the little  things you do. It’s the defending, it’s the blocked shots, it’s the sacrifice. It’s not complaining about your role. It’s going out and just playing as hard as you can for the next guy who sits beside you in that locker room. That’s why this group is so special. "

Then there is Stamkos, a guy who has battled injury in recent seasons.

"Watching Stammer’s growth -- going from  60-goal scorer and the young guy to the leader, tthe captain, the guy people are rallying around. He’s got a lot of weight his shoulders. He’s got to score, to lead, to be the face of the franchise. At some point, you want the light to shine on him. It has in so many ways."

Said Alex Killorn: "We had a great angle on first goal. You couldn’t have placed it in a more perfect spot than he did. That second goal, he rises to the occasion. He's a great leader for us. We follow him and he’s been unbelievable,"

Stamkos was in the penalty box when New York tied the game in the third period.

"I was a little disappointed in myself for taking the penalty," Stamkos said. "It was weird for some reason, and it’s easy to say now. I wasn’t as rattled as I usually am in those situations. I think I was just confident in our group that we’d find a way."

Ryan McDonagh blocked six shots for the Bolts.

The Bolts open their Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night against high-scoring Colorado, which has swept two opponents in these playoffs.

Palat had two assists./TIM WIRT


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