Lightning on verge of lifting Cup
Kevin Shattenkirk (above) will never forget having his contract bought out in the summer of 2019 and joining the Lightning because he felt their core players had a similar chip on their shoulders after a shocking first-round exit.
More than a year later, he created a moment to remember to put the Lightning on the verge of making good on years of unfulfilled potential.
Shattenkirk scored a power-play goal in overtime after a questionable penalty, and the Lightning beat the Stars 5-4 Friday night to take a 3-1 lead in the final and move a victory away from lifting the Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay was potentially 24 hours away from its second championship in franchise history after winning it in 2004.
“Looking forward to tomorrow night because then it could all come really full circle,” Shattenkirk said. “We’ve got a job to do here. It’s still not finished.”
It almost is for a core group that has so far been unable to get over the hump despite being one of the best teams in the NHL for much of the past decade. Shattenkirk came over after the New York Rangers let him go, but guys like Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Andrei Vasilevskiy and coach Jon Cooper have been around a while and are focused on finishing this.
Even before OT, The Lightning carried the play for much of the night and showed the depth and talent that has made them a Cup contender for several years. Their core players are closer to the Cup than they ever have been, five years after taking a 2-1 series lead in the final and losing in six to Chicago.
“They came here to do something,” Cooper said. “They’re on their way, but we’ve said all along, we haven’t won anything yet.
“We still have to win one more and we’re not taking anything for granted.”
It was another dominant performance by top players who looked exactly like they wouldn’t be denied after getting this far.