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Colorado Avalanche beat two-time defending champs to win Stanley Cup in Tampa

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The Colorado Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup final in 21 years on Sunday when Nathan MacKinnon scored one goal and scored another to set off a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay.

The Avalanche captured the National Hockey League’s best-of-seven championship series with four games against two for Colorado’s third NHL crown after 1996 and 2001.

“It feels like disbelief,” MacKinnon said. ‘It’s hard to describe. To see all these warriors fighting, it’s unbelievable. Words cannot describe what I’m feeling right now.’

With the emotional win on the road, the Avalanche denied the Lightning a third straight title and fourth overall.

Colorado defenseman Cale Makar was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Makar, a 23-year-old Canadian, has scored eight goals and provided 21 assists in 19 playoff games.

“All the work these guys have put in, it’s just so amazing to be a part of the reward,” Makar said. “I’m just so proud of the boys.”

He smiled as he looked at the Stanley Cup.

“You see that thing as a kid, grow up with pictures of it on the wall,” Makar said. “It’s surreal. It’s great.”

Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos opened the scoring in 3:48 in the first period on an assist from Czech left wing Ondrej Palat. It was the Canadian center’s best eleventh goal in the playoffs.

MacKinnon equalized in 1:54 in the second period, a slant shot just inside the post for his 13th goal of the playoffs.

The Avalanche took the lead by the last margin with 7:32 to go into the second period on a goal by the Finnish left wing Artturi Lehkonen, his eighth of the postseason, on a pass from Canadian center MacKinnon.

The Lightning drew goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy to an extra striker in the closing seconds to try to equalize, but couldn’t stop the Avalanche from hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Colorado players dropped their sticks on the ice and threw their gloves into the air to start their celebration after the last second of the clock ticked.

In a trophy ceremony minutes later, Colorado players took turns taking the trophy overhead and passing it on to teammates, many pausing to kiss the hardware as they skated across the ice.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog thought of those who helped nurture his championship dreams while skating the Cup, his dream came true.

“That’s more than 20 years of dreaming and wanting and working for it,” said the Swedish left. “It’s the culmination of many years and working for it. It’s unbelievable. I still can’t believe it.”

‘Everything is right’

Landeskog smiled as he watched his teammates celebrate.

“They just want so badly to win and do what it takes, and it all comes down to making us a tough team to play against,” he said.

“The expectations we put on ourselves to be great, to work on ourselves. We had eight or nine come-from-behind wins. That’s hard to do.”

The only team in NHL history to fall 3-1 and win the Stanley Cup Final, as the Lightning tried to do, was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

(AFP)

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