Arena: St Pete Times Forum
Championships: Stanley Cups (2003–04), Conference Championships (2003–04), Division championships (2002–03, 2003–04)
Head coach: Guy Boucher
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TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING:
The Tampa Bay Lightning are a professional ice hockey team that are a part of the NHL and the team is based in Tampa, Florida.
When Tampa was awarded an NHL franchise in 1991, the team's management brought in star power before they had any players. The Lightning hired 1970s Boston Bruins star Phil Esposito as president and general manager, his brother Tony, a legendary goaltender, as chief scout and Terry Crisp, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers when they won two Stanley Cups in the mid-1970s, and coached the Calgary Flames to a Stanley Cup in 1989, to stand behind the bench.
The Lightning first took the ice on October 7, 1992, playing in Tampa's very small 11,000-seat Expo Hall. The Lightning shocked the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 with four goals by little-known Chris Kontos — a scoring mark as yet unmatched by any Lightning player. The Lightning’s 53 points in 1992-93 was one of the best showings ever by an NHL expansion team and it gave Tampa Bay fans optimism for the next season.
The following season the Lightning moved to the Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg, which was reconfigured for hockey and renamed "the Thunderdome."
In their fourth season, 1995-96, the Lightning made the playoffs for the first time, beating out the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils for the 8th spot in the East. Although the Lightning lost their first round series in six games to the Philadelphi Flyers, that year still marks a magical season for Lightning fans (and the attendance of 28,183 on April 23 was the most for any NHL game until the Heritage Classic).
The Lightning struggled during the late 1990s due to front office troubles and ownership controversy.
The Lightning entered the 2002-03 season with a largely young roster that was thought to be a few years away from contention. However, the new Lightning arrived considerably earlier than expected. Led by the goaltending of Nikolai Khabibulin and the scoring efforts of Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Vaclav Prospal, the Lightning battled the Washington Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division throughout the season.
The Lightning finished with 93 points, breaking the 90-point barrier for the first time in team history. The Lightning won the Southeast by just one point over the Capitals. That one point made a big difference in their first round match up with the Washington Capitals. The Lightning earned their first playoff series win by beating the Capitals in a six-game series. The Lightning could not, however, defeat their second-round opponent, the New Jersey Devils, and they lost that series in five games.
After their breakout season, the Lightning finished the 2003-04 season first in the Eastern Conference with 106 points, second-best in the league. In the first round of the playoffs, the Lightning beat the New York Islanders. In the next round the Lightning faced the Montreal Canadians and the Lightning were able to sweep them in 4 straight games. The Lightning faced the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference finals, winning in a back-and-forth seven-game series in which neither team was able to win consecutive games, earning the Lightning their first-ever Eastern Conference championship and their first-ever berth in the Stanley Cup finals. The Lightning defeated the Calgary Flames 4 games to 3 to win their first Stanley Cup on June 7, 2004. Only three years after losing 50 games in a season, the Lightning became the southernmost team ever to win the Stanley Cup. Having entered the NHL in 1992-93, the Lightning are currently the youngest franchise to have a Stanley Cup win in their history. The Lightning had to wait a year to defend their title due to the 2004-05 NHL lockout, and in 2006 they showed little sign of departing from the NHL's elite.
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