EDMONTON, Alberta – The Tampa Bay Lightning are the champions of bubble hockey.
Brayden Point scored his playoff-best 14th goal and the Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 on Monday night to win the Stanley Cup and finish off the most unusual NHL postseason in history, staged nearly entirely in quarantine because of the pandemic.
Goals from Point and Blake Coleman and a 22-save shutout by Andrei Vasilevskiy in Game 6 were enough to power the Lightning to their second championship after winning it in 2004. That also came with the league on the verge of a labor stoppage, a lockout that wiped out an entire season, and similar uncertainty hangs in the air now because of the coronavirus.
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was chosen the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoiffs MVP.
Tampa Bay's core group closed out the final with an almost poetic display of what got the Lightning to this point over the past several years and months. Point scored a power-play goal in the first period with assists from longtime standouts Hedman and Nikita Kucherov, key addition Coleman killed a penalty and scored on an odd-man rush in the second, and Vasilevskiy did his job on a relatively slow night in net.
The dominant Lightning outshot the Stars 29-22 and looked like the powerhouse they've been for much of the past decade.
In the final alone, Tampa Bay's power play was clicking and turned the series around. Point's goal made it 7-for-16 over the past five games, as the Stars were undone by their lack of discipline.
Dallas simply ran out of gas after injuries piled up. Rick Bowness, an assistant for Tampa Bay for five years who was part of their 2015 run that fell short in the final, faced his own uncertain future as interim head coach.
The Lightning did to the Stars what Chicago did to them in the 2015 final, when injuries built up. The painful playoff losses look like mile markers now — losing four consecutive games to Chicago after going up 2-1, blowing 3-2 series leads in the Eastern Conference final in 2016 and 2018, and last season's jaw-dropping, first-round sweep by Columbus after the Lightning had tied the NHL single-season wins record and won the Presidents' Trophy.