Yanni Gourde Nets Lone Goal As Tampa Bay Lightning Advance To Stanley Cup Final

On a night that would determine the team that would advance to the finals against the Montreal Canadiens, it was St. Agathe native Yanni Gourde who led the way for Tampa Bay to fight for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Netting the lone goal of the contest to move on, it’s the second consecutive year that the Tampa Bay Lightning clinch a spot in the finals. For Gourde, it’s a little extra special, as he faces the team he grew up watching and rooting for.

“I watched them play when I was growing up, so I’m very excited to play them in the Stanley Cup Final and it’s gonna be so exciting and I can’t wait to get this thing started.”

For Tampa Bay, their road to the cup has very rarely been doubted with much credit to their leadership. With a core made up of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, the Lightning entered well positioned with a roster similar to that of 2020.

Looking back on the shortened regular season, the Lightning endured a loss of offensive firepower, with both Stamkos and Kucherov sidelined on the IR. However, with both getting cleared throughout the playoffs, neither showed any rust or skipped a beat upon their returns.

Adding that to a postseason resume of seven straight series wins with a defeat of the Islanders, the Lightning, for the first time this season, go head-to-head with Montreal, where history lingers for both.

While the Lightning will get home advantage, hosting the first two games at Amalie Arena, Jon Cooper, Head Coach of the Lightning, was quick to point out how much it means to the opposing fanbase.

“I hope they let more fans in there. The fans of Quebec, they haven’t been back since ’93, they deserve to watch their team play,” he said. “I hope they get in there because … this game was meant to be played in front of fans.”

Entering their first Stanley Cup Final since 1993 and through a global pandemic, the path to this point was uneven, with loss of their bench boss in Dominique Ducharme. That meant a change for Montreal, one that didn’t affect them, but rather inspired them.

It gave them a little extra motivation to be part of a series 28 years in the making. With a little more reason to push, they won the Clarance S. Campbell Trophy Thursday night on home ice. As they look to repeat, the Lightning won the Prince of Wales Trophy, pitting the 18th place Canadiens against the league’s defending champions.

Lacking a Game 7 offensive presence, all eyes turned to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who recorded his fourth shutout in an 18-save outing. With that, he became the first goalie with three shutouts in series-clinching games during a single postseason.

“I don’t think we can say anything more about him,” Steven Stamkos said speaking postgame with the media. “He’s the best in the world for a reason. He’s the steady rock that allows us to play with pace, play with confidence and play with a lead.”

This statement resonated with coach Cooper after watching his team outshoot New York 31-18. “It’s becoming a broken record, but it’s not how many you put in the net, it’s how many you keep out,” he said.

That’s the type of play the Lightning will need, with Game 1 set for Monday against the Kings of the North. Facing Carey Price and the Habs, it’s the fourth time in franchise history that Tampa Bay has reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America

“Just a great effort by the whole team…. That was just a textbook Game 7,” said Vasilevskiy, who made the difference in this series. Guiding his team between the pipes, the win led Tampa Bay to 14-0 in the postseason.

While superb goaltending in Florida’s Gulf Coast is the norm, defence was just as impactful in the series decider. Bending New York out of shape when it mattered the most, the Lightning took control up the middle, allowing just seven shots in the third period alone. 

With much credit towards the team’s defence, the Lightning put their bodies on the line, as they sprawled to block shot attempts, a representation of their commitment. Redirecting 10 attempts throughout the third played a critical part late in the game to seal the deal.

“To do it two years in a row, multiple times, you’re talking about now your team is special,” Jon Cooper said following the victory. “And years down the road they say ‘Well, that Tampa team during some time was a hell of a team’ and I think you can really put a stamp on that if you win another one.”

Having one up on the Islanders, they didn’t allow even an inch, commanding five-on-five play, which proved to be a worthy virtue. 

That and a dedicated bunch is what put them in position to succeed at all costs. “We have great leaders in this group,” said Yanni Gourde. “Our group has a ton of resiliency, and we showed that tonight.”

With that, the Lightning face off on Monday against the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals. With puck drop set for 8:00pmET at Amalie Arena, the series will be broadcast nationally on NBCSN and across all Sportsnet platforms.

It’s do or die, win, or go home, as both put their best foot forward to hoist the coveted Stanley Cup.

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