AMPA, Fla. _ The Montreal Canadiens have come up short in their against-all-odds campaign to end Canada's 28-year Stanley Cup drought.
The Tampa Bay Lightning successfully defended as Cup champions Wednesday, edging the Habs 1-0 at home to claim the series four games to one.
Ross Colton scored his fourth goal of the playoffs, tipping home David Savard's pass as it drifted through the crease behind a surprised Carey Price.
The loss extends the championship deficit for the Canadiens, whose last Cup victory came at the end of the Lightning's debut season in 1993.
Bolts netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 shots en route to the win, and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price made 29 saves.
Both the Habs and the Lightning went 0 for 3 on the power play.
The two sides battled in a physical, scoreless affair for 33 minutes until the Bolts ended the logjam, with Colton putting home Savard's pass.
For some of Montreal's younger superstars, the unlikely campaign was a rare chance to experience professional hockey at its pinnacle, a teachable moment they can only hope will present itself again.
``This is what you play for, to have that opportunity _ once, twice, maybe even if that _ in your career,'' young star forward Cole Caufield said after the team's pre-game skate.
``Obviously, you can get pretty stressed out in times like these, but this is you playing hockey, the best game in the world, and you can't take it for granted. But you've got to enjoy every moment you can.''
Interim head coach Dominique Ducharme was similarly contemplative.
``You have to embrace those moments and embrace those challenges,'' Ducharme said.
``It's part of hockey, it's part of life. That's the way we handle it.''