Nathan MacKinnon could not find the words. Gabriel Landeskog cracked a smile and a joke.
After years of playoff disappointments, the Colorado Avalanche are back atop hockey’s mountain after dethroning the two-time defending champions.
Behind a goal and an assist from MacKinnon, the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup for the third time in franchise history and first in more than two decades by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Game 6 of the final Sunday night.
“It was all leading up to this,” playoff MVP-winning defensman Cale Makar said about the Avalanche’s journey.
It’s the first title for this core group led by MacKinnon, captain Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Makar and it follows several early postseason exits — in the second round each of the past three seasons and the first in 2018.
“It feels unbelievable,” MacKinnon said. “Some tough years mixed in there, but it’s all over now. We never stopped believing.”