Nathan MacKinnon scored once and assisted on the tiebreaking goal, helping the Colorado Avalanche hoist the Stanley Cup in Tampa, Florida, on Sunday after a 2-1 win over the defending champion Lighting.
Colorado took the best-of-seven series in six games, winning Games 1 and 4 in overtime and Game 2 in a 7-0 blowout.
The Avs had fallen short of wrapping up the championship on home ice Friday in Game 5 before they prevailed at Amalie Arena.
“To see all these warriors battle, it just feels unbelievable,” an overjoyed, exhausted MacKinnon told ABC. “Words can’t describe how I feel right now.”
As MacKinnon was giving a postgame interview, he shared an embrace with teammate Andrew Cogliano, who told him, “87.”
MacKinnon explained how confident he felt after he landed in hotel room No. 1787, reminding him of his longtime friend, mentor and fellow Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, native Sidney Crosby, who wears sweater No. 87 for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We both love Sid,” MacKinnon said. “We just knew we were going to win when I got that room number.”
After 20 minutes of play Sunday night, it looked like a Game 7 in Denver was possible as Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos gave his team an early 1-0 lead.
MacKinnon equalized early in the second period before he fed Artturi Lehkonen for the game winner midway through the second period.
It’s the third Stanley Cup won by the Colorado franchise with roots going back to its 1972 formation as the Quebec Nordiques of the old World Hockey Association. The Avalanche won it all in 1996, their first season in Denver, and then again in 2001.
It was a long journey to hockey’s mountaintop for Colorado, which had the NHL’s worst record as recently as 2016-17.
“Being a former player and all that, you know how happy they [the players] are and how relieved that they have an opportunity to finally raise the Stanley Cup,” said Colorado General Manager Joe Sakic, an Avs star on the 1996 and 2001 title teams.
Colorado’s win Sunday kept Tampa from capturing its third straight title, a feat last accomplished by the New York Islanders, who had a four-year run from 1980 to 1983.
Winning three consecutive titles in any of North America’s four major pro sports is a rarity.
Baseball’s New York Yankees (1998-2000) and basketball’s Los Angeles Lakers (2000-02) were the last to accomplish the feat in their sports, and no football team has ever won three consecutive Super Bowls.
The Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls, on Jan. 15, 1967, and Jan. 14, 1968, and the final NFL title of the pre-Super Bowl era.
The NHL season’s end also completed the 28th consecutive campaign in which a Canadian franchise failed to lift Lord Stanley’s famed chalice as champions of the North American league dominated by Canadian players.
The last team north of the border to win it all was the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. Seven of the league’s 32 teams are based in Canada, in theory giving the Great White North a 1-in-5 shot of fielding a Stanley Cup-winning team.