Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was still coming to terms with a franchise record loss after the two-time defending champions were drubbed 7-0 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Colorado Avalanche.

Three days on from a close-fought Game 1 loss, the Florida outfit were soundly smashed at Ball Arena as they capitulated to leave an arduous path back to a third consecutive title.

After an overtime clash before that indicated a tight postseason battle for hockey's biggest prize, the Lightning were no match for the Avs, suffering their largest ever playoff defeat.

"Am I shocked that we lost seven-zip?" Stamkos stated. "I mean, I don't think we saw that coming.

"We have a game plan, and it's trying to neutralise their speed and their forecheck. And we've gotten away from it a little bit at times, and it cost us."

Stamkos in particular said the team owed an apology to goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who suffered a torrid night as the Avs ran rampant.

"We left him out to dry tonight," he added. "He's been our backbone for years and years and years. We owe it to him to have a better game next game. By no means is this on him tonight."

This was just the fifth instance of the defending Stanley Cup champions falling 2-0 behind in a Finals series, with only the 1966 Detroit Red Wings recovering to take the title again.

Meanwhile, the 1980 New York Islanders are the sole team to have allowed 11 or more goals through two games and still won the Finals.

But with two games back home to restore parity, the Lightning are adamant that they are not out of the picture yet.

"It takes a great team to realise the mistakes that we've made," Stamkos added. "And I have full confidence in this group that we'll have a much better effort.

"Listen, people are going to be watching this game tonight and probably think the series is over. But we're a very resilient group. We were in this position last round.

"So, whether it's 1-0 or 7-0 or 10-0, it's a loss in the playoffs. We've got to man up as a team. Let's get back home in front of our fans, and let's see what we're made of."

Defenseman Victor Hedman added: "At the end of day, we lost the game, not the series."

In a battle between arguably the two best goaltenders in the world, it was the Tampa Bay Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy who came out on top in a 3-1 road win against the New York Rangers and Igor Shesterkin in Game 5.

With the win, the Lightning pulled ahead 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, with a chance to close it out in front of their home fans in Game 6. If needed, Game 7 will head back to Madison Square Garden.

Each team lived up to their staunch defensive reputations early on, leading to a scoreless first 30 minutes, before Ryan Lindgren finally found the breakthrough halfway through the second period.

Lightning defensman Mikhail Sergachev equalised with three minutes remaining in the second term, setting up a nail-biting finish.

After 18 minutes of tight, scoreless hockey, Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat was able to deflect in a shot on goal, forcing New York to pull their goalie in a desperation move, only for Brandon Hagel to put the icing on the cake with an empty-netter.

Speaking to ESPN after the win, Lightning winger Pat Maroon said his side is no longer rattled by these massive games after winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.

"I think [our recent success] leads to confidence, it calms the nerves," he said. "When you get settled in, and it's a 1-1 game there, our nerves are calm, we're relaxed.

"We know what it takes, we know how to win hockey games, we know how to close out games.

"When we've been put in situations like we have the last two years, you kind of get that swagger a little bit. We've had that adversity with winning in the bubble, and some other things, but like [Steven Stamkos] said, a good road win would be nice.

"The guys played hard, it's a gutsy win."

When asked about what it feels like to live out every young hockey player's dreams of being part of a great Stanley Cup-winning team, Maroon was thankful for the position he is in.

"I just try to go out there and be a part of it," he said. "Be an impact in the room, or on the ice, whatever I can do.

"Certainly these runs have been remarkable for me, and my family, but it's been fun just to be with the boys, and to see how relentless we are in the room, and what it takes to win.

"Guys do whatever it takes – it's so fun to look around the room and to see all the sacrifices we've put together these last three years, it's honestly amazing. I'm happy to be a part of that."

He added: "I remember playing in the basement with my two brothers… playing street hockey, [dreaming of] scoring that game-winning goal, being a part of the Stanley Cup.

"You want to be a part of those moments. Obviously I'm living it right now – I never thought I'd be in the NHL, winning cups – but I'm living it, I'm having fun with it, and I'm enjoying it. 

"We have a great group of guys in there that make everything special."

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy added to his glittering resume as he shut-out the Florida Panthers 2-0 in Game 4 of their series, locking up a 4-0 series sweep.

It marks the sixth time Vasilevskiy has shut-out an opponent in a series-clinching win – the most in NHL history.

He also became the first player since at least 1955-56, when saves first started being tracked, to save at least 30 shots, allow no more than one goal, and earn the win in five consecutive games. 

The Lightning outscored the Panthers 13-3 for the series.

In Monday's game, Tampa Bay's home fans had to wait until the third period for the deadlock to finally be broken, as Pat Maroon got on the end of a Zach Bogosian assist, before Ondrej Palat sealed things with an empty-net goal with the clock winding down.

Speaking to post-game media, Lightning coach Jon Cooper highlighted how silly it was to question the quality of an all-time goaltender like Vasilevskiy after a tough start to their last series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I’m not so sure there’s much more I can say about [Vasilevskiy]," he said. 

"It’s funny how the playoffs are – five games into the Toronto series and you’re asking all these questions about what’s wrong with Vasilevsky.

"It's never a doubt in our locker room. A goalie's job, if you want to be elite, is to give your team a chance to win.

"When a goaltender gives your team a chance to win, it comes in a variety of ways. Tonight, it was that he wasn’t letting anything in. And we’ve seen that time and time again."

Tampa Bay's Alex Killorn added that it is a joy to take the ice next to a future Hall-of-Famer.

"It’s pretty cool to play with a player that I think will go down as one of the best goalies that’s ever played the game," he said. 

"That’s how you kind of gauge players – how they perform in big-time games – and he’s been nothing but tremendous in his game."

Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said while it was a tough pill to swallow, it was a tremendous learning experience for his side after winning their first playoff series since 1996 to earn a shot at the reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup winners.

"They’re really good – I mean, they’re Stanley Cup champions for a reason," he said.

"Their evolution of how they were once a high-flying, kind of offensive team, and [now] they've found their recipe on how to win, and they stick with it.

"Obviously, we aspire to be them, and this was another learning experience for us. We need to be better."

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was the hero as the Tampa Bay Lightning boosted their three-peat bid by winning 4-1 over the Florida Panthers in Game 1 in second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Lightning beat the Panthers in the first round of last year's playoffs 4-2 after going 2-0 up in the series and Tuesday's win got them halfway there in this year's Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper was full of praise for 27-year-old Vasilevskiy, who made 34 saves as the Lightning fired in three third-period goals to get the win.

Vasilevskiy's 34 saves are the most he has had in a game this postseason, while he has stopped 94 of 99 shots over the past three games.

"Look at the saves he makes at the times we need them," said Cooper in his 124th playoff game with the Lightning.

"To me, that's what great goaltenders do and they give you a chance to win a hockey game and that’s what our guy did again tonight."

Nikita Kucherov, who scored a goal and had an assist, also hailed the Russian goaltender.

"He brings 100 per cent effort every single game and everybody's just trying to take his energy and bring it to your game," Kucherov said.

"He's a leader ... he's our best player."

Florida had taken the lead through Anthony Duclair in the first period but the Lightning hit back with four unanswered goals from Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Kucherov and Ross Colton to take the win.

"We're still learning and unfortunately we had to learn again tonight. We will be better next game," Florida interim coach Andrew Brunette said.

"They are too good of a team, a veteran team, and they're not going to open the door for you. We had our opportunities. On to the next game."

The Tampa Bay Lightning acknowledged they were not at their best in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, with one critical exception. 

Another brilliant showing from goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy bought Tampa Bay enough space to scratch out a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena and take a 2-0 series lead. 

While the Canadiens dominated the flow of play and were the more aggressive team throughout, putting 43 shots on goal to Tampa Bay's 23, the Lightning had the decisive advantage. 

“Thankfully, there was one guy that had his level where it needed to be," Lightning veteran Ryan McDonagh said of Vasilevskiy.

Tampa Bay's netminder was beaten only on Nick Suzuki's power-play goal midway through the second period.

He has stopped 60 of Montreal's 62 shots through the first two games and has defeated the Canadiens 10 straight times, but said he found success by keeping his mind clear. 

"I'm trying not to think much during the games," Vasilevskiy said. "Whatever happens, win or lose, I'm just trying to go out there and play my best game, and now we’re up two games.

"It doesn’t matter -- up two games, down two games, it’s the same routine, same compete level.”

The 26-year-old Russian has been so good that it was jarring to see Suzuki's shot scoot past him and level the score after Anthony Cirelli had given Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead four minutes earlier. 

The moment that turned the game the Lightning's way, though, came in the closing seconds of that second period, when Barclay Goodrow stole the puck at center ice and delivered it to Blake Coleman, who managed to get a shot off with one arm while diving through the air. 

It got past Carey Price with 1.1 seconds remaining to send the Tampa crowd into a frenzy and give the Lightning a lead they would not relinquish. 

"It's definitely something you don't want to do, give up goals in the first or last minute of periods," said Canadiens captain Shea Weber. 

Despite that frustrating setback, Weber and his team will return to Montreal for Friday's Game 3 knowing they played better overall than in their 5-1 defeat to open the series. 

"I thought we played a pretty solid game all around, to be honest," Weber said. 

"We did make a couple mistakes that obviously hurt us. They're an opportunistic team that make you pay, but we probably deserved a little bit better tonight."

Andrei Vasilevskiy was labelled the "best in the world" after guiding NHL champions the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final.

Lightning goaltender Vasilevskiy starred after stopping all 18 shots he faced as the Lightning outlasted the New York Islanders 1-0 in Game 7 of the semi-finals on Friday.

Vasilevskiy produced his second shutout in three games, while Yanni Gourde scored shorthanded in the second period for the Lightning – who will face the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos hailed Vasilevskiy after the Islanders – who were trying to reach the Cup Final for the first time since 1984 – were shut out in a Game 7 for the firs time.

"I don't think we can say anything more about him," Stamkos said. "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."

Canadiens star Carey Price and Vasilevskiy will be the first former Vezina winners to face each other in the Stanley Cup Final since Ed Belfour (Dallas Stars) and Dominik Hasek (Buffalo Sabres) in 1999, according to Stats Perform.

Tampa Bay's Brayden Point fell short of an NHL record after failing to score a goal in a 10th straight Stanley Cup playoff game.

Point was unable to match Philadelphia Flyers forward Reggie Leach, who scored a goal in 10 successive postseason games in 1976.

"We've come such a long way; I've been with this group for a while," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. " … It's so [darn] hard to win in this League, but last year, I just found we could win in different ways, but in the end, just the warrior mentality this group had, and it was prevalent tonight.

"After a really tough loss the other night [in Game 6], you just can't count them out. They've just learned how to defend, and again another masterful performance in the defensive zone to win a huge Game 7 for us."

The Lightning will host the Canadiens – featuring in the showpiece for the first time since 1993 – in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Monday.

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