Lightning’s Victor Hedman first to touch conference trophy for second straight year

TAMPA — Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman didn’t hesitate as he skated toward NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and the Prince of Wales Trophy after Friday’s 1-0 win over the Islanders.

In one motion, the Norris Trophy finalist reached to shake Daly’s hand and then gave the trophy two taps on the top.

Hedman then skated around the table the trophy rested on and stood behind it, placing his right hand on the bottom as he got ready to pose for a photo with alternate captions Alex Killorn and Ryan McDonagh and captain Steven Stamkos.

Just like last year, and in less than 10 seconds, the Lightning are kicking any superstitions out of their way.

Most of the time, teams don’t touch the conference trophies, since the Stanley Cup is their true goal. The Canadiens did not touch the Clarence Campbell Bowl after defeating the Golden Knights on Thursday. But apparently the Lightning have a different mindset.

Hedman wasn’t alone in dumping the superstition. Killorn also touched the trophy with his right hand. And during the photo, Hedman kept his left hand firmly attached to the silver.

Stamkos went a step further, lifting the hardware as he skated off the ice, showing it to fans in attendance.

Last year, Hedman and Killorn also touched the Prince of Wales Trophy in the Toronto bubble after the Lightning defeated the Islanders in six games.

At the time, Hedman said it was a “no-brainer” for the team, especially given the fact “it didn’t work last time” (when the Lightning won the 2015 Eastern Conference final over the Rangers before losing to the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final).

Related: Stanley Cup final will begin Monday in Tampa

Fans ‘electric’ in last minute of play

To say coach Jon Cooper was impressed with the fans following the Lightning’s win would be an understatement.

Cooper, Tampa Bay’s coach since 2013 and the longest-tenured coach in the league, soaked in the final moment of regulation as fans nearly blew the roof off of the building.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper celebrates his team’s 1-0 victory in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinal. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

“I’ve never heard a building as loud as I did tonight in that last minute of play — ever,” he said. “You have to tug on guys’ jerseys just to tell them who was going out. I thought when Gordo scored it was loud, but that last minute, it was electric. The fans came to play tonight, just as our team did.”

Related: ‘Do you STILL WANT TAMPA???’: Twitter reacts to Lightning advancing to Stanley Cup Final

Throughout the season, Cooper has reiterated the importance of having fans back in the building after spending the entire 2020 postseason in Canadian bubbles.

“This game is meant to be played in front of fans,” Cooper said.

The Lightning allowed 14,800 fans into Amalie Arena for the semifinals, the most they’ve allowed all postseason.

Friday’s game was the first time during this year’s playoff run the team played in front of a full-capacity crowd on home ice, hosting 14,805 people for Game 7.

Related: Lightning have become the team that refuses to yield

Cooper hopes that when the Lightning and Canadiens play in Montreal, the Bell Centre will have more fans than it’s had so far this postseason (3,500 were allowed for the semifinal series against Vegas).

“The fans of Quebec deserve (to be at the games),” Cooper said. “They haven’t been back since ‘93, they deserve to watch their team play. I hope they get in there, because as you saw tonight, having fans in the building is a sick environment.”

Contact Mari Faiello at Follow @faiello_mari.

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