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For Corey Perry, Third Time's a Charm

Corey Perry knows what it's like to lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup final. This time, he's hoping to find out what the other feeling is like.
Corey Perry

So much has been made about Patrick Maroon's three Stanley Cups in a row, doing it with two different teams.

It's impressive, especially for a bottom-six player, and something that hasn't been done in the salary cap era. Another 11 Bolts players can become three-time consecutive winners if the team can pull it off this year. In Maroon's case, it would be his fourth win, something done just 12 times prior, and not since the New York Islanders in the early 1980s.

But Corey Perry has his own mission to complete. After losing in the Cup final two years in a row with Dallas and Montreal, he joined the team that beat him both times prior, the Tampa Bay Lightning, for a third shot at the elusive title. It's not like he hasn't won it before -- he helped the Ducks win it in 2007 -- but it can be painful coming on the short stick of twice after knowing just how tough it is to get to the final in the first place.

Perry joined the dark side, and while he isn't the offensive player he once was, he has molded himself into one of the best bottom-six players in the post-season. He's a pain in the you-know-what when he wants to be, but he still has a bit of that trademark offensive flair that makes him valuable away from the pest-work.

You can call the past three years a career rebirth, of sorts. In his prime, Perry was an elite power forward, making many Stanley Cup appearances, becoming a member of the Triple Gold Club, winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player in 2011 and posting 30 or more goals six times, highlighted by his 50 in 2010-11. 

But Perry was bought out of the remainder of his deal in Anaheim after a disappointing 2018-19 season where he struggled to generate much offense and ultimately found himself in Dallas' bottom six in 2019-10. He had a pair of 21-point seasons before scoring 19 goals and 40 points in a more prominent role with the Lightning. 

But it's his playoff performances that really stand out -- in 2021, he worked well with young forwards Caul Caufield and Nick Suzuki, and he's been a menace to society throughout this year's run, too.

Once the pressure was off Perry to be a leader, he found his game again. And that's why so many of his teammates respect him, because he's still giving it his all at 37 and finding a way to stay relevant in the latter years of his career.

To an extent, there are strong parallels for the last player to win a Cup in his third attempt after falling short twice in a row: Marian Hossa. In 2008, Hossa played for the Penguins in a final loss to Detroit. The following year, he swapped sides for the rematch, only to lose that, too. He finally won the elusive trophy in 2010 in Chicago and won it twice more in 2013 and 2014 as one of the team's key players during that dominant stretch. 

Perry's situation is almost more interesting because he joined the team that beat him twice in a row, so it would be extra special for him to finally pull it off.

"I've been on some good teams, had some good bounces along the way, but to be on this side, seeing what these guys have gone through the past couple of years, we're excited," Perry said. 

Captain Steven Stamkos said seeing the guys who haven't been a part of this group the past few years -- Perry, Nick Paul, Brian Elliott, to name a few -- would mean more than winning another Cup for himself. Earlier in the playoffs, coach Jon Cooper said the end goal doesn't change because of past successes. They're still here to win it for everyone, including veterans closer to the end of their careers like Perry. 

"When I first got here, some of the guys said, 'we're still hungry, we want this feeling again.' You can see that that's still the case, and we're excited," Perry said.

"When I won my first one in Anaheim, that's kind of how I was like, too. There were guys there that had played 16, 17, 18 years and never had a chance to play in the finals. When you see that, and hear people say that, it's very special."

One of the biggest parts about this playoff run for Perry that's more special than the other two is having his family back. In 2020, they weren't allowed in the bubble. In 2021, there were still some restrictions and Perry didn't have his family around for that, either. They've been at his side the whole time this time around, so there's extra motivation this time around.

"There's a little bit more buzz, the way I look at it," Perry said. "This is why we play the game."

Perry has another year left on his two-year contract and, assuming he doesn't retire early, will have another shot at the Stanley Cup final if Tampa can keep the band together. 

That's not his focus now, though. Expect Perry to bring his trademark sizzle over the next two weeks.

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