Steven Stamkos’ two goals propel Lightning to Stanley Cup Final: ‘We deserved to win the game’

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Steven Stamkos has been with the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2008 and has been one of the top players in franchise history over the course of his long career.

The veteran center stepped up in Saturday night’s Game 6 Eastern Conference final win against the New York Rangers.

Steven Stamkos' two goals propel Lightning to Stanley Cup Final: 'We deserved to win the game'

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) moves the puck against the New York Rangers during the second period in Game 6 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. 
(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

First, Stamkos broke the game open with his eighth goal of the playoffs in the second period. 

Steven Stamkos' two goals propel Lightning to Stanley Cup Final: 'We deserved to win the game'

But the Rangers tied the game in the third period on Frank Vatrano’s goal on an assist from forward Andrew Copp.

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About 21 seconds later, Stamkos struck again.

Stamkos got his second score past New York goaltender Igor Shesterkin on assists from Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat to put Tampa Bay up 2-1 with about 6:30 to play in the game, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy held down the victory.

LIGHTNING BEAT RANGERS 2-1, ADVANCE TO STANLEY CUP FINAL

Steven Stamkos' two goals propel Lightning to Stanley Cup Final: 'We deserved to win the game'

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, center, celebrates a goal against the New York Rangers with Jan Rutta, right, and Ondrej Palat during the second period in Game 6 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.
(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

“I obviously was a little disappointed in myself for taking the penalty. … It’s easy to say now, but, for some reason, I wasn’t as rattled as I usually am in those situations,” Stamkos said. “I was just confident in our group that we would find a way, whether it was in regulation or was in overtime. We deserved to win the game. That was the feeling we had from puck drop.”

Now, Tampa Bay is off to its third consecutive Stanley Cup Final.

“It’s going to be tough to get out of the moment and look back and realize what a special group we have here because there’s still some games to be played,” Stamkos said. “You’re still not at the end of our goal, but, in saying that, this group is pretty amazing and pretty special.”

Stamkos gave Shersterkin credit for keeping the Rangers in the game. Shesterkin had 29 saves in the loss.

“Shesterkin was unbelievable. He made some unbelievable saves to keep them in it, but I think I just felt kind of a calming presence because of the group,” Stamkos added. 

Steven Stamkos' two goals propel Lightning to Stanley Cup Final: 'We deserved to win the game'

Corey Perry, left, and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate after defeating the New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 6 to win the Eastern Conference at Amalie Arena June 11, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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Tampa Bay will play the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final. Game 1 is set for Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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