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Avalanche clinch the Stanley Cup, stop Lightning 2-1 in Game 6

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) shoots the puck past Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy
Phelan Ebenhack
/
AP
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) shoots the puck past Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) for a goal during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals on Sunday, June 26, 2022, in Tampa.

Andrei Vasilevskiy kept the two-time defending champions’ quest for a three-peat alive, but it wasn't enough as the Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup since 2001.

The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t relinquish their stronghold on the Stanley Cup without a fight.

Andrei Vasilevskiy rejected shot after shot, keeping the two-time defending champions’ quest for a three-peat alive, but another superb performance by the star goaltender wasn’t enough to keep the Colorado Avalanche from wresting the title away.

Steven Stamkos' first-period goal gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead, but goals by Nathan MacKinnon and Artturi Lehkonen in the second period proved to be the difference.

"There's probably a lot of teams that get to this position and feel like they had an unbelievable year," Stamkos said. "And for us, it's disappointing because we know what we have in there and we know that feeling that they're having over there right now. It's the best in the world."

The Lightning were 3-0 when facing possible elimination before Sunday night’s 2-1 loss stopped a bid to become the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships since the New York Islanders captured four in a row from 1980-83.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly presented the Stanley Cup to Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog in Commissioner Gary Bettman's absence.

Cale Makar has won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after leading the Colorado Avalanche to their first Stanley Cup title since 2001 and third in franchise history.

Bettman previously tested positive for the coronavirus and was unable to produce enough negative results to get back to the series in time. It's the first time someone other than Bettman handed out the Cup since he took over in 1993.

The Cup was quickly handed to some of Colorado's older players like Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano who had never won it before. Some like Nazem Kadri hoisted it with battered and bruised hands from various playoff injuries.

Makar is the second defenseman to win the award over the past three years. He follows Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman.

Makar led Colorado in scoring and trailed only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in points this postseason. The 23-year-old who also won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defensemen this season.

Three Lightning fans sit dejected in the crowd
John Bazemore
/
AP
Tampa Bay Lightning fans watch as the Colorado Avalanche celebrate their championship of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals on Sunday, June 26, 2022, in Tampa.