TAMPA (AP) — Jon Cooper had every reason for optimism that the Tampa Bay Lightning, two-time Stanley Cup champions, could continue their quest for a third-peat.

The coach stated that “our story is not over” earlier this month, as his team was on the verge of being eliminated in round one against the Toronto Maple Leafs. We feel that we have a lot of potential.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is just one reason.

Since the Lightning lost 3-2 to the Maple Leafs in their first round series, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner has won six consecutive games. This includes a Game 7 gem from Toronto and a sweep of the Florida Panthers in Eastern Conference semifinals.

Next up is Tampa Bay’s sixth trip in eight years to the East Finals, where they will face either the Carolina Hurricanes (or the New York Rangers).

Captain Steven Stamkos stated that the Lightning had found a formula that allowed them to reach the playoffs deep, especially over the past 2 1/2 years, and that they want to continue this trend. Monday’s 2-0 win over Florida was the Lightning’s first sweep of a playoff series since 2011.

Stamkos said, “It’s one of the most exciting and gut-wrenching times of the year. But that’s just an incredible feeling.” It’s hard to describe it without having experienced it. This group has.

Vasilevskiy recorded 49 saves and the sixth shutout in seven series-clinching victories.

After allowing three goals or more in six of Tampa Bay’s games against Toronto, he has given up four in his last five games.

Vasilevskiy stated that it was his job to give the boys the chance of winning, and that he thinks they did a good job.

“Nothing special. It’s simply the way that the entire team plays in those games. “The whole series was just constant blocked shots and sacrifices, with boys literally breaking bones in order to stop the puck,” said the goaltender. It was a team effort that was so impressive. This is not just me. “I’m trying to do my best job.”

Just six minutes into the third period, Pat Maroon, who was chasing his fourth consecutive Stanley Cup title won a tie. Lightning had two goals disallowed in the first period of the second, and Ondrej Palat added an empty-net goal with 22 minutes remaining.

The Lightning joins the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and the New York Islanders as the only teams to have won at least 10 consecutive playoff series. Maroon, who was a part 14 consecutive series wins with St. Louis before signing with Tampa Bay in 2018, won the 2019 championship.

Maroon stated, “I have been blessed to play with two very good teams in the last few years but this team is very impressive.”

“The way that we compete. We’re never out of the game because we keep going. “It’s been incredible to see what we’ve gone through over the past few years,” Maroon said.