'We never stopped believing': Avalanche down Lightning to win Stanley Cup - in pictures

Colorado, which also won the title in 1996 and 2001, denied Tampa Bay's bid of completing a three-peat as Stanley Cup champions

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Artturi Lehkonen scored the go-ahead goal in the second period to help the Colorado Avalanche win their third Stanley Cup title in franchise history, courtesy of a 2-1 victory over the host Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 on Sunday.

Colorado, which also won the title in 1996 and 2001, denied Tampa Bay's bid of completing a three-peat as Stanley Cup champions.

Nathan MacKinnon collected a goal and an assist and Darcy Kuemper made 22 saves for the Avalanche, who set a franchise record with nine road wins in a playoff year. Six clubs share the NHL record of 10 road victories.

It's the first title for this core group led by MacKinnon, captain Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar and it follows years of playoff disappointment. The Avalanche lost in the second round each of the past three seasons after getting knocked out in the first round in 2018.

“It feels unbelievable,” MacKinnon said. “Some tough years mixed in there, but it’s all over now. We never stopped believing.”

Captain Steven Stamkos scored and Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 28 shots for the Lightning, who were trying to become the seventh team to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-1 in a best-of-seven Cup final.

Colorado's Cale Makar won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs.

“They’re a team that’s looking to become a dynasty,” Makar said. “We’re a team that’s looking to start a legacy.”

That legacy finally involves a championship, thanks in large part to steady coach Jared Bednar, who in his sixth season found a way to focus his team on the mission at hand from the start of training camp. That mentality helped the Avalanche get over the hump, and Bednar became the first coach to win the Stanley Cup, American Hockey League's Calder Cup and ECHL's Kelly Cup.

Lehkonen, who hit the post late in the first period, gave Colorado a 2-1 lead with 7:32 remaining in the second. The puck banked off the leg of Tampa Bay defenseman Zach Bogosian and right to Lehkonen, who sent a shot over the glove of Vasilevskiy for his eighth goal of the playoffs.

Tampa Bay scored the first goal for the third straight game after converting a turnover at 3:48 of the first period. The puck caromed off the skate of Ondrej Palat and right to Stamkos, who sent a shot between the pads of Kuemper for his team co-leading 11th goal of the playoffs and second in the finals.

Vasilevskiy preserved the slim advantage in the first period after denying a point-blank chance Nazem Kadri before receiving help from the post on Lehkonen's shot from in front.

The Avalanche successfully answered 1:54 into the second period after MacKinnon wired a shot from deep in the left circle that banked off Vasilevskiy's blocker and into the net. MacKinnon's goal was his NHL co-leading 13th of the postseason, tying him with Edmonton's Evander Kane.

Updated: June 27, 2022, 3:46 AM