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Avalanche dethrone Lightning to win Stanley Cup for 1st time since 2001

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

The Colorado Avalanche dashed the Tampa Bay Lightning's hopes of a three-peat, prevailing 2-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Sunday to win their first championship in over two decades.

Artturi Lehkonen scored the eventual winner in the second period, giving the Avalanche their first regulation lead since early in Game 3.

Nathan MacKinnon provided Colorado's first tally earlier in the second frame, tying the contest after Steven Stamkos opened the scoring in the first.

"It’s hard to describe," MacKinnon said, according to The Associated Press' Stephen Whyno. “(There were) some tough years mixed in there, but it’s all over now. We never stopped believing.”

Colorado outshot the Lightning 30-23. Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced. His counterpart, Andrei Vasilevskiy, made 28 stops in the defeat.

Cale Makar won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after claiming the Norris Trophy earlier this week. The Colorado defenseman racked up 29 points over 20 games to lead all blue-liners and rank third among all skaters behind Edmonton Oilers game-changers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Makar hasn't been in the NHL as long as MacKinnon, but he's been around long enough to have experienced disappointment before Sunday's victory.

“It’s just been building over time,” he said. “I’ve been here only three years. (We had) a couple of tough exits in the playoffs. It was just all leading up to this.”

The Avalanche lost in the second round in each of the previous three seasons after getting bounced out of the first round in 2017-18 and missing the postseason in six of the seven campaigns before that. The only time they qualified in that span resulted in another first-round defeat.

Colorado went 16-4 in this postseason and never trailed in a series.

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar became the first bench boss to win the Stanley Cup, the AHL's Calder Cup, and the ECHL's Kelly Cup. The 50-year-old captured the other trophies with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2015-16 and the South Carolina Stingrays in 2008-09. Colorado hired him in August 2016.

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