MacKinnon shines in clinching win, helps Avs win Stanley Cup

Jun 26, 2022, 11:32 AM | Updated: 11:35 pm

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon lifts the Stanley Cup after the team defeated the Tampa ...

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon lifts the Stanley Cup after the team defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals on Sunday, June 26, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack)

(AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Andrew Cogliano shouted at Nathan MacKinnon in the midst of the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup celebration.

“87!” he bellowed.

It was a reference to the final two numbers of MacKinnon’s hotel room, which Colorado’s star forward thought was a great omen when he checked in ahead of Sunday night’s Game 6 in Tampa. Sidney Crosby, like MacKinnon a native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, is known for being No. 87.

Now MacKinnon is a Stanley Cup champion, just like Crosby.

“We just felt like it was fate,” MacKinnon said. “We just knew we were going to win when I got that room number.”

Fate didn’t help MacKinnon sneak a perfect shot past 2021 playoff MVP Andrei Vasilevskiy for Colorado’s first goal or help him set up Artturi Lehkonen for the second. And fate didn’t make him slide his body in front of shots to keep them from getting to the net or take a big hit from Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos that knocked him to the ice.

No, it was skill and sheer determination for a player seeking a championship that had eluded him for several years amid playoff disappointments. He was at his best in the Cup-clinching 2-1 victory Sunday night. After a relatively quiet performance in the series until that point, MacKinnon picked the perfect time to be a difference-maker and drove the bus for the Avalanche.

General manager Joe Sakic, who drafted MacKinnon with the first pick in 2013, said this means everything to his first-line center.

“He’s one of the best players in the world, and he wanted this more than anyone, and you can tell,” Sakic said. “He’s open about it how much he wants to win, and I was really proud for him. He’s been tremendous right from when he started as a rookie. He’s gotten better and better every year. A dynamic player, and you saw it today. He checked as hard as when he had the puck.”

MacKinnon at times played like a man possessed during this run, leading the Avalanche with 13 goals, tied for the playoff lead.

“The maturity of his game over the last couple of seasons and in going through what we went through in the playoffs last year has kind of driven him to a different point this year,” coach Jared Bednar said. “He has a better understanding and a growing understanding of everything that’s happening around him and that other guys play an important role in our team’s success and it doesn’t have to always just come back on him.”

MacKinnon blazed and bulldozed through and dangled around plenty of opponents to win his first championship, adding a goal in the title-clinching win.

“Nate’s like a bull in a china shop,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, whose team came two victories away from the NHL’s first three-peat since in the early 1980s. “He plays the power game. He’s kind of got that double-edged sword because he’s really fast and he’s really strong, so it’s hard to neutralize him when you really let him go.”

The Avalanche unleashed MacKinnon on Nashville, St. Louis and Edmonton before that — sweeping the Predators in the first round and the Oilers in the Western Conference final sandwiched around beating the rival Blues in six. And then came the Lightning, who were vanquished in a terrific series that saw four one-goal games (two won by Colorado in overtime) and a blowout win for each team.

At the end, Colorado had the Cup and MacKinnon this time didn’t have to answer questions about what went wrong or whether he’d need to change his approach to win in the playoffs.

Instead of doing that, MacKinnon ratcheted up his game. Even before he scored his first goal of the final, he danced around defenders with moves more reminiscent of video game hockey than real life.

Facing noted Tampa Bay shutdown center Anthony Cirelli in the final, MacKinnon was more than up to the challenge.

“He embraces some of those matchups,” Bednar said. “Nate, he’s not afraid or intimidated to go against anybody.”

As a result, MacKinnon now trails Crosby by two Stanley Cup titles, giving the 26-year-old even more to shoot for beyond this championship.

“It’s crazy,” MacKinnon said. “Can’t wait to hug my family. It’s hard to describe. I didn’t really know what it would be like to actually win it, just seeing all these warriors battle, it just feels unbelievable.”


Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno


More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

MacKinnon shines in clinching win, helps Avs win Stanley Cup