Montreal’s Carey Price may be a generational goaltender, but little-known rookie Ross Colton beat him with a historic goal that will forever live in Lightning lore.
The only goal of Wednesday’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals was scored by Colton, who was born in Robbinsville, N.J., about an hour outside of Philadelphia depending on how cooperative I-295 is. He’s the 25th player born in Jersey to play in the NHL, according to Hockey-Reference.com, and the first from Robbinsville, a town of about 15,000 just east of Trenton.
Colton took a feathery feed from defenseman David Savard and directed the puck past Price, who had lifted the underdog Canadiens into their first Stanley Cup Finals in 28 years.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has now won consecutive championships. Neither Colton nor Savard had a hand in last season’s title. Colton was in the AHL. Savard was acquired at the trade deadline from Columbus.
Colton, a fourth-round pick of the Lightning in 2016, appeared in 30 games during the season but all 23 postseason games. He was mostly a fourth-line grinder, and his goal Wednesday was his first in 12 games.
Proving that heroes wear all sorts of capes, Colton became just the second rookie in 82 years to score the game-winner to clinch the Cup. Mike Rupp (2003, Anaheim) is the other. It cemented quite a year.
Colton’s AHL coach in Syracuse, Benoit Groulx, said in April that Colton’s development since last season opened eyes around his league to the point that opposing coaches sent Groulx texts.
“He really became a pro,” Groulx told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think when every year you improve your conditioning, every year you’re more fit, every year you’re faster, it shows your commitment.”
Making it more impressive is how locked down things were last offseason, when getting ice time was often the biggest challenge.
Improvement is one thing. Etching his name in Lightning history is another.
You can’t help but think of new Phantoms coach Ian Laperriere when Colton explained the influence Groulx had on him.
“He was always on me,” Colton told the Times. “Especially my first year [2018-19], he was super hard on me. He pushed me and … told me to play in all three zones and really taught me how to play hard. … When you get to the next level, you’ve got to learn how to play in all three zones.”