CHICAGO (Reuters) - Netminder Ben Bishop played through a painful right groin tear and Tyler Johnson had a broken right wrist.
Nikita Kucherov and other Tampa Bay Lightning players also played hurt but those ailments were nothing compared to the heartbreak of a 2-0 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finale on Monday.
Leading the best-of-seven series 2-1, the Lightning dropped three games in a row as the surging Blackhawks claimed their third Cup in six seasons and first in 77 years on home ice.
“It’s tough to put into words right now, there are so many emotions that run through your body,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “How much you sacrificed to get here.
”You never know when you’re going to get this opportunity again and to let it slip through your fingers. The only thing that goes through your mind is that you didn’t get the job done.” Stamkos failed to score in the six-game final but had his chances on Monday. He fired a shot off the crossbar in the first period and was denied on a breakaway in the second period by Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. “Obviously it would have been great to score on one of those chances,” Stamkos said. “I feel like I let the guys down a little bit. It’s tough to put that into words how frustrating it was to have those good chances but not have the puck go in.” Johnson suffered his broken wrist in the series opener. Bishop was injured in Game Three and sat out Game Four last week before returning for the final two contests. “The trainers did a very good job of getting me back,” Bishop said. “There’s not really much you can do. It’s just kind of a helpless feeling I guess. You get this far and you just need some bounces.”
Back in the finals for the first time since 2004, the sting of coming so close to hoisting the Stanley will linger for sometime for the Lightning.
But the team and Tampa fans can look forward to being contenders for a long time with a solid core of young players now hungrier than ever to sip from the silver mug.
“I’m very confident that we’re a good team with a lot of talent that has the ability to come back,” Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. “But it’s a long road, it’s very tough to get here, but I definitely think we have the ability to reach our goals.”
Writing by Tim Wharnsby in Toronto. Editing by Steve Keating.