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Colorado Avalanche win first Stanley Cup since 2001 with Game 6 comeback; Cale Makar awarded Conn Smythe Trophy

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The night before the Colorado Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup in over two decades by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Game 6 on Sunday, they called a players-only meeting.

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Colorado could have clinched the Cup on home ice in Game 5. Instead, Tampa Bay extended the series with a 3-2 win

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The Avalanche's leadership group had been through too much heartbreak before, making three consecutive second-round series exits prior to this season. No way would they let another opportunity slip.

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"I felt like throughout this whole game, our mentality was just win that period and win the next one, get the next shift and so on, and we were never looking too far ahead to the to the outcome -- and we definitely feel like we earned that one."

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Makar finished the postseason third overall in scoring with eight goals and 29 points in 20 games. The 23-year-old also won the Norris Trophy last week, making him the third defenseman to win both the Norris and Conn Smythe in the same season. Makar was the first unanimous Conn Smythe winner since the Professional Hockey Writers Association began tracking tabulations five years ago.

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It wasn't the individual accomplishments Makar was most proud of, however. It was the whole team effort. He said before the Cup Final began that while the two-time Cup champion Lightning were trying to build a dynasty, Colorado was attempting to forge a legacy.

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That journey began in earnest for the Avalanche with the franchise's first Cup victory since 2001. In what was a tightly contested Game 6 until the end, Makar worked not to let his emotions take over.

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Avalanche coach Jared Bednar had a gut instinct about Sunday's game. He was not part of the meeting that took place but "got the gist" of what was said. That the players took it upon themselves to gather after the Game 5 loss told Bednar everything he needed to know about where his team stood.

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Colorado wouldn't trail again. Artturi Lehkonen scored his game winner in the second period, and the Avalanche held on from there to deny Tampa Bay its three-peat chance.