The defending Stanley Cup champions may have been on the ropes. But the back-to-back title-winning Tampa Bay Lightning came home and cut their deficit from two games to one, beating the Colorado Avalanche 6-2.
It wasn’t just the two-game deficit in the Stanley Cup Final that had Lightning fans worried, it was how the Avalanche won. Colorado took an early lead in both games and, in Game 2, absolutely dominated Tampa. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, one of the best playoff goaltenders in NHL history, suffered a seven-goal blitz on Saturday.
But on Monday, it was the Colorado goaltender who felt the pressure. Darcy Kuemper was taken out when Tampa Bay took a 5-2 lead after the halfway mark of the second.
Here’s what happened when the Lightning brought him back to home ice in Game 3.
We ourselves have a series
Colorado is in somewhat uncharted territory.
The Avalanche hadn’t lost since May 25 before losing 6-2 in Game 3. They hadn’t lost in the playoffs, period, by such a big margin. Darcy Kuemper was taken out, putting a cloud over their goalie. All that depth scoring has dried up. Everything was wrong.
Tampa Bay was a force. It should have been an exhilarating victory. Except the Lightning lost Nick Paul and Nikita Kucherov to apparent injuries in the process. Kucherov came out late in the third after getting tied with Devon Toews along the boards. Paul left in the second period, just after scoring a goal.
It was the first road loss Colorado suffered in the playoffs, but they still lead the series, 2-1. Tampa Bay remains perfect at home in the playoffs. What does this foreshadow for Wednesday’s Game 4? Stay tuned. -Kristen Shilton
Tampa Bay came to play
As Jon Cooper said before Game 3: “Those guys are a hell of a team, but so are we. And we’ve been to those places before.”
He is right; the Lightning has already been shot down. They have been counted before. And just like in those places, reports of their disappearance in the Stanley Cup Finals seem greatly exaggerated.
Second period in review: pic.twitter.com/d10Uflmrsp
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) June 21, 2022
Just as the Lightning came back from a 2-0 road deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals, they look like a different team in Game 3 against the Avalanche. They had 16 shots in Game 2; they fired 26 shots on the Avalanche goal tonight. They earned 50% of the shot attempts in two periods after getting just 29% in Game 2. They failed to score on the power play in the first two games; they finally scored one in Game 3. Their stars were subdued in Denver; Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman all had multi-point games.
Oh, and perhaps most importantly: They scored six goals, out of the Avalanche’s two goals, and chased down Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper in the process.
“We have to go out there and find our best game right now,” Pat Maroon said ahead of Game 3, in which he contributed a goal in the charge. “They haven’t seen our best. So we’re excited. Hopefully we can show them our best tonight.”
For 40 minutes they showed something close. But there are still 20 minutes left and the Avalanche are one of the few teams that could close a four-goal gap. –Greg Wyshynski
Colorado down by two
Jared Bednar didn’t hesitate. When the Lightning took a 5-2 lead after halfway through the second, Darcy Kuemper was out after allowing five goals on 21 shots. Pavel Francouz got the green light.
It had to be done.
Kuemper was sharp at the start of the first period but had become a liability. He couldn’t stand the pressure from the Lightning, and Colorado (perhaps not coincidentally) wasn’t playing confidently in front of him.
It was the first game in quite some time where Kuemper was really called upon. Tampa Bay trailed the Cup Final 2-0 and everyone knew a pushback was coming. The Avalanche haven’t faced much adversity lately and Kuemper, who saw just 16 shots in Game 2, hasn’t handled the situation well.
Granted, Colorado isn’t doing much to help either of its guards. The Lightning flipped the script in Game 2 and win the races and the battles. They beat Colorado at their own game. And Andrei Vasilevskiy seems locked in again. It might even be worse for the Avalanche than seeing their own starter struggle. –Shilton
Lightning overhead through a
For much of the Lightning’s first period looked a lot like survival rather than an assertive response to the Avalanche’s 2-0 lead. They needed Andrei Vasilevskiy’s save on JT Compher after about four minutes of play. They needed the NHL Situation Room to get Valeri Nichushkin’s floating goal off the board with an offside. They needed a funky “no shot” goal from Anthony Cirelli to get past Darcy Kuemper in the net for the first goal since the second period of Game 1.
But then, in a flash, they looked like the Lightning again. Ondrej Palat steals the puck off a pass from Devon Toews. Nikita Kucherov draws defenders towards him in the attacking zone. Steven Stamkos setting up Palat for a goal to make it 2-1, as the unsung winger netted a point in his ninth straight playoff home game. And Vasilevskiy held the lead against more pressure from Colorado, as the Avs had 14 shots on goal in the period.
The Lightning are 6-1 when leading after one period. More importantly, they haven’t trailed by multiple goals after the first 10 minutes of a game in this series. Small victories. –Wyshynski
Avalanche falling behind
Valeri Nichushkin thought he scored the game’s first goal on a substitute shot that beat Andrei Vasilevskiy early in the first period.
It was Tampa Bay that would receive the change.
The Lightning successfully challenged the game as an offside, cutting the wind from Colorado’s sails in what had been a mostly Tampa Bay-led setting.
It didn’t last long, however. Colorado is as resilient a team as you’ll find and showed it again by withstanding both Tampa Bay’s initial push and their first power-play chance. Not only did the Avalanche hold the Lightning, but they also got a penalty. Gabriel Landeskog scored on the man advantage that followed to turn the tide in Tampa Bay.
It was the ninth consecutive unanswered goal scored by Colorado in this series.
It was a nine-minute streak that showed the best of Colorado: depth, grit, talent, identity.
The Avalanche will need more of those segments as the night progresses. They got sloppy as the period progressed. And it was the Lightning who took advantage with a pair of goals. Colorado hasn’t had to deal with much adversity lately. Between the overturned goal and a first behind in this Cup Final, how will they now manage a real challenge? –Shilton
Colorado Rockies pitcher and Denver native Kyle Freeland stood out in the crowd as he cheered on the hometown team.
Friendly faces in enemy territory 🥰
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 21, 2022
Did someone say “chicken parmesan”?
Peanut butter and jelly. Batman and Robin. John Buccigross and Chicken Parmesan. The tradition of teams featuring Buccigross with the meal continued before Game 3. The Lightning even involved their mascot, ThunderBug.
— ThunderBug (@ThunderBugTBL) June 20, 2022
In case you need a better look, our Greg Wyshynski has you covered.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) June 20, 2022
Tampa Bay is down but not out
Is the situation ideal? No. Is the series over? Far from there. Will this Lightning hype video have Tampa Bay fans walking through a wall before the puck comes into play? Most likely.
Rewrite history. ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/AwMiVyTMrY
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) June 20, 2022
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