Boston Bruins

Sep 17, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Tampa Bay Lightning pose with the Prince of Wales Trophy after their 2-1 overtime win against the New York Islanders in game six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

By Ty Anderson,

For the third time in as many rounds, the Tampa Bay Lightning used an overtime frame to punch their ticket to the next round, with their latest extra-period thriller, a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders in Game 6, sending the Bolts to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

This series-clinching goal came with Tampa’s most bizarre look yet, too, with Semyon Varlamov appearing to put an Anthony Cirelli look into his own net for the Tampa series victory.

It was a straight-up unfair ending for Varlamov, who saved the Isles’ asses countless times throughout the night, and finished with saves on 46-of-48 shots thrown his way in over 73 minutes of play. (Varlamov was phenomenal over the final two games of New York’s season, really, stopping all but three of the 85 shots thrown his way, good for a .965 save percentage.)

But in the end, Tampa Bay’s depth up front proved to be too much. Just like it was for the Blue Jackets, and just like it was for the Bruins. Their third line has emerged as a legitimate problem for opponents and their seven-defender look has made navigating the offensive-zone downright impossible for many lineups. It just feels like downing this team takes a superhuman effort, and even then, a bad bounce can undo almost all of your work (see: that Cirelli series-clinching goal).

So it’s off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2015, where this Bolts core, a lot younger than they are now, lost to the dynasty Blackhawks in a six-game series for Chicago’s third Cup championship in six seasons.

The challenge likely won’t be as daunting this time around, as they are not facing the most dominant dynasty of the 21st century, but rather Anton Khudobin and the Dallas Stars, who advanced to their first Final in two decades behind a five-game series win over the Vegas Golden Knights earlier this week.

But the Bolts will advance on short rest, with Game 1 set for Saturday night.

“We’re in the Finals,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We have a lot of energy. We’re super excited. This is not the time to think about how you feel. This is when you go after it. We’ve got to empty the tank, it doesn’t matter if it’s four or seven games. We’ve just got to go out there and empty the tank every night.”

The Lightning will be looking for their first championship since 2004, while the Stars are searching for their first Stanley Cup since 1999.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.