Lightning Legacy: 5 Standout Moments from the 2004 Stanley Cup Win, 20 Years Later

June 7th, 2004. Not just one of the most important days in Tampa Bay Lightning history, but one of the most important days in Tampa sports history.

On this day the Lightning defeated the Calgary Flames by the score of 2-1 in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals to win the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup.

This was the moment you can point to where everything changed for the Lightning. Before the 2003-04 season, the Lighting had only made the playoffs twice and won one playoff series. The team’s attendance wasn’t that high, with the worst being averaging just over 11,000 fans in the 1997-98 season.

Today the Lightning are one of the model organizations in the NHL. Seven straight playoff appearances, a long home game sell-out streak and multiple championships. The Lightning have become a beloved part of the Tampa community.

You can point to the 2004 Stanley Cup squad as being the starting point of all of the success you see today. Them winning the cup isn’t just historic because it was their first title, it’s historic because it was the day Tampa became a hockey town.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the first time the Lightning became champions. And we here at RBLR Sports want to celebrate this anniversary by remembering this special team. So here are the top five moments from the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup run!

#5: Off Theodore

The defining moment of Brad Richards’ journey to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

In Game 3 of the second round against the Montreal Canadians, Richards scored by bouncing the puck off the back of former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner José Théodore. This gave the Lighting the 4-3 win in overtime and a 3-0 lead in the series, paving the way for them to sweep the Canadians.

Prior to the goal, the Lightning were trailing with less than four minutes to go in the game. It looked like the Canadians would be able to close the gap in the series. But instead, a late between-the-legs goal by Lecavalier set up Richards to score the game-winning goal. Considering that Richards grew up a Canadians fan, having grown up close to where they played, this goal had to feel extra special.

#4 St. Louis’ Series-Winning Slap Shot

In Game 5 of the first round, Martin St. Louis showed off why he was that year’s Hart Trophy winner. In overtime of Game 5 of the first round against the New York Islanders, he fired the puck past goalie Rick DiPietro to give the Lightning the 3-2 series-ending win.

This goal secured what was only the second playoff series win in franchise history and this was the first time the team clinched a series win on home ice. St. Louis, who ironically scored a series-winning OT goal in the first round of the previous playoffs for the Lightning, scoring this goal set the team on the path to winning the cup.

#3 Making a Statement in Philly

Out of all of the teams the Lightning played in the 2004 playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers were probably their toughest opponent.

The Flyers had had the best regular season out of all of the teams the Lightning faced, being the only team to earn more than 100 points. They were led by future Hall of Fame coach Ken Hitchcock and had a roster comprised of respected and talented veterans like Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Keith Primeau.

In Lightning’s championship DVD, several players revealed how nervous they were before playing them.

“They got such good offense,” Vincent Lecavalier said. “There skating and you know, they’re a tough team to play against.”

One other thing that made the Flyers so formidable was they were dominant at home. Before their series with the Lightning, the Flyers hadn’t lost at home in the playoffs.

That stat was just one of several major questions and doubts that surrounded the Lightning heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The team had just gotten blown out the previous game 6-2, with the score at one point being 6-0.

Having to come back from a loss like that is one thing. But to have to do it on the road against a team who hadn’t lost at home seemed almost impossible. But it turns out it wasn’t.

The Lightning walked into Philly and came out with a 4-1 win. This win showed the team was able to handle adversity. The team killed five Flyers power plays and Lecavlier scored a clutch goal seconds after the Flyers scored to cut the Lightning’s lead to one in the third period.

The star of the show was the Lightning’s goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. After being lit up in Game 2, the Bulin Wall put on what the game’s play-by-play commentator Gary Thorne called “an MVP show,” stopping 24 out of 25 shot attempts and making some incredible acrobatic saves.

Using the power of hindsight, it’s fair to say that this game was the most important in this series. This was the Lightning’s only road win in a series that went all seven games to vanquish the Flyers. It’s fair to say if the Lightning never won this game, they wouldn’t have even made the Finals.

#2 We Are Going Back To Tampa Bay

Sentimental reasons are keeping this off the top spot, but this really should be #1.

Game 6 of the Finals is one of the most famous or infamous games in hockey history. It was a do-or-die game for the Lightning as they trailed in the series 3-2. The game would turn into a chippy, back-and-forth affair. The game was so evenly matched, that not even a single overtime period was enough to decide a winner.

Every Lightning fan knows what happens next. 33 seconds into the second overtime period, a shot from Tim Taylor was redirected right in front of St. Louis who snapped the puck past the Flames’ goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, sending the series to a seventh game and the Calgary crowd into stunned silence.

For years this was unquestionably the greatest goal in Lightning history. And while that title is up for debate with there being some monumental goals from the future Stanley Cup-winning squads, this still might be number one.

This is a play that has been shown in hundreds of Lighting video packages and is a moment that is engraved in fans’ heads. From St. Louis celebrating by jumping in the air while fist-pumping, to Thorne’s memorable call of “Redirected… SCORE! GAME 7! MARTIN ST. LOUIS! WE ARE GOING BACK TO TAMPA BAY!” This is one of the best moments in team history and the defining play of one of, if not the greatest player in franchise history.

#1 Hoisting the Cup

Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. After 11 stressful minutes of the Lighting holding onto a one-goal lead, the horn finally went off. Lightning players threw their gear in the air and dog-piled on the ice. With a 2-1 win, the Lightning had won the whole thing and finally got to raise the Stanley Cup.


The image of the Lightning’s captain Dave Andreychuk lifting the cup for the first time in his 22-year career may be the most iconic image in team history. It’s so iconic that it is now literally depicted by a statue outside Amalie Arena.

Players hoisting the cup is always special. But this particular team getting to hoist it was extra special. This moment represents more than a team finally achieving the ultimate prize after barreling for months in the playoffs. This moment represents a team finally making it.

This was a team that only existed because a Hockey Hall of Famer had to fight tooth-and-nail for years to be approved. This was a team that started off playing in a convention hall before playing a few seasons in a baseball stadium.

This was a team that didn’t just play in a non-traditional hockey market, but it played in the most southern place possible. This was a team that faced so much adversity in its early years, much more than most expansion teams. When you look at everything this team had faced, it looked like they could be heading down the way the Atlanta Thrashers eventually went. But despite all of those challenges, the Lightning had now finally managed to reach the top of the mountain and in doing so turned a city where it doesn’t snow into a hockey town.

In this moment, a team that should not have worked became the best team in hockey. And what makes this moment even sweeter to remember now, this wouldn’t be the last time they would earn that title!