After years of playoff disappointments, the Colorado Avalanche are back atop hockey’s mountain after dethroning the two-time defending champions. Behind a goal and an assist from Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup for the third time in franchise history and first in more than two decades by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Game 6 of the final Sunday night, per the AP. “It’s just been building over time,” playoff MVP-winning defenseman Cale Makar said about the Avalanche’s journey. "I’ve been here only three years. A couple of tough exits in the playoffs. It was just all leading up to this.”
"It’s hard to describe," said MacKinnon, who led the way in the clincher by blocking shots and taking big hits in addition to his offensive production. “Some tough years mixed in there, but it’s all over now. We never stopped believing.” With a mix of speed, high-end talent and the experience gained from those defeats, Colorado broke through this time—earning every bit of the championship by knocking off a deep and gritty team that hoisted the Cup the past two years.
On the Tampa side, the loss ended a remarkable streak for left-winger Patrick Maroon. He won the Stanley Cup with St. Louis in 2019, then got traded to Tampa Bay and won it again in 2020 and 2021. Had he won his fourth straight championship, Maroon—more of a tough, grinding forward than a marquee player—would have been the first player to do so in four decades, per Sporting News. Most of those four-time winners belonged to the Islanders or Canadiens dynasties of long ago. The feat has become near impossible in age of parity among teams. (Read more Stanley Cup stories.)