DENVER – The 2-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are well-schooled within the artwork of erasing deficits.
They got here inside 11 minutes of elimination by the Toronto Maple Leafs within the first spherical. They noticed two video games to the New York Rangers to open the Japanese Convention closing. Even in a Sport 1 Stanley Cup Ultimate loss to the Colorado Avalanche, they staggered within the face of a first-period barrage, however rapidly pulled even earlier than falling in extra time.
They are going to want one other comeback – probably the most daunting one but in opposition to their most proficient opponent but – if they’re to develop into the primary franchise in almost 40 years to three-peat.
Such is the case after Colorado steamrolled to a 7-0 victory Saturday night time at Ball Enviornment, placing the Lightning on the ropes within the opening minutes, on the mat by the center of the second interval and powering to a 2-0 lead within the collection.
SPORTS NEWSLETTER:Join now to get sports activities headlines delivered each day
“We’ve proven a propensity to push again for years. Tonight we didn’t,” Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper stated. “If this turns into a typical theme within the collection, it can most likely be a brief one, however I by no means doubt the fellows within the room. Does it suck dropping a recreation like that? For positive. We’re not used to it. It doesn’t actually occur to us. Is it going to occur at instances? Yeah, it’s. You simply hope it doesn’t occur within the Stanley Cup Ultimate.
“We’ve been capable of circle the wagons and reply. Upset in the best way the sport went tonight, no query, however I’m not questioning our staff. They’re ballers.”
Cooper actually thought Saturday night time could be a circle-the-wagons second, saying lower than two hours earlier than the puck dropped that he was assured his staff would play “a heck of rather a lot higher” over the primary 10 minutes than it did Wednesday night time on this constructing, when the Lightning fell behind 2-0 rapidly and trailed 3-1 after the primary interval.
As an alternative, veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh took a roughing penalty 61 seconds into the sport and the Avalanche transformed close to the top of the ability play when Valeri Nichushkin dove in entrance of the web and cashed in a move from Sport 1’s extra time hero Andre Burakovsky that went proper by means of three on-looking Tampa defenders.
“It was all downhill from there,” Cooper stated.
Certainly, Colorado dominated in each side, opening up a 23-12 photographs benefit by means of two intervals, holding the Lightning to a fistful of actual scoring alternatives and taking part in just like the completely superior group throughout the board.
“I assumed it was distinctive,” Avs coach Jared Bednar stated. “I assumed our guys performed exhausting proper from the drop of the puck. Extremely dedicated on the defensive facet of issues, harmful offensively, tenacious on pucks, relentless puck pursuit and that was all through our total lineup.”
Nichushkin added one other aim and an help, whereas Burakovsky tallied a aim himself and one other helper earlier than leaving the sport with an damage after simply 7:51 of complete ice time and 1:22 after the primary interval. Star defenseman Cale Makar added a shorthanded aim and a power-play aim within the third interval for good measure.
The Avalanche once more proved as much as the duty of beating Tampa Bay’s glorious goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who acquired little in the best way of assist from his protection as Colorado dominated offensive zone time and peppered photographs towards the web at will.
Even after a blowout loss in entrance of a frothing crowd in a metropolis longing to return to the highest of the hockey world, although, it’s harmful to rely out the two-time defending champions.
“We’re not anticipating that (margin of victory) to occur anymore,” Colorado ahead Darren Helm stated. “We’ve acquired to maintain our foot on the fuel. It’s going to be rather a lot harder going into Tampa.”
Toronto may virtually scent a first-round victory when, main a first-round collection 3-2, it poured in three consecutive second-period targets and carried a 3-2 lead into the third interval of a possible put-away recreation. As an alternative Nikita Kucherov despatched the sport to extra time and Brayden Level delivered in extra time earlier than Tampa solid a 2-1, Sport 7 win.
Maybe the Rangers additionally thought they’d Tampa proper the place they needed them, scoring 9 targets in a pair of opening wins earlier than watching Vasilevskiy discover his type and give up simply 5 extra over a robust, four-game response from the Lightning.
“We’re within the playoffs and does it really feel totally different? We misplaced one of many video games 6-2 to the Rangers, we misplaced one 7-0 (tonight),” Cooper stated. “They’re two fully totally different groups and two fully totally different collection. The widespread issue is we’re down 0-2 to each of them. We’ve written one story, now we simply have to put in writing one other. For me, it’s no matter whether or not you win 7-0 or 4-3 in extra time, you continue to lose the sport.”
Whether or not Colorado finishes the job and raises the Cup for the primary time since 2001 stays to be seen, however this gap actually feels deeper than the previous ones for Tampa.
The Avalanche, in spite of everything, have velocity and talent throughout the roster. They’ve premier gamers like Makar and Nathan MacKinnon, actually, however this collection has been in regards to the likes of Nichushkin and Burakovsky, who’ve been an excessive amount of for Tampa’s protection to deal with.
“That’s been the story of our staff just about all yr,” Helm stated of the lineup-wide contributions.
It’s been about Helm himself, who has racked up 22 hits by means of two video games, received 5-of-7 faceoffs on Saturday and scored a aim on a breakaway.
“He’s taking part in to win,” Bednar stated merely.
It’s been about goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who exterior of 1 48-second blip on Wednesday night time, has turned in rock stable work in his return from damage.
It has not but been about Nazem Kadri, the proficient heart with out whom the Avs have constructed a 2-0 lead however who may return to motion sooner or later within the collection relying on how his surgically repaired thumb holds as much as extra intense on-ice work.
No matter who’s been within the lineup and who’s performed the scoring over the previous six-plus weeks, Colorado’s playoff efficiency at this level is undeniably dominant. The Avalanche are actually 14-2 within the postseason total and journey a seven-game successful streak to the Gulf Coast. Maybe much more spectacular: They haven’t but misplaced away from Denver within the postseason. They staked their declare because the Western Convention’s greatest staff within the common season and have hardly confirmed indicators of wavering within the playoffs.
“As you go alongside within the playoffs, even earlier collection, we’re nonetheless adapting and studying as a bunch,” Makar stated. “For many of the guys, this can be a new expertise for them. So that you study out of your errors, the belongings you hand over in prior video games, after which transfer ahead. We realized from final recreation and needed to maintain that momentum, and we did our greatest to try this.”
Reminded of the expertise discrepancy between the back-to-back champs and his staff earlier than Sport 1, Bednar responded, “Clearly Tampa, third straight journey and so they’ve been one of many prime groups within the league for the higher a part of a decade, numerous expertise, know the way to win, we get it. …
“They could have extra expertise, however we’re right here to attempt to show that we’re the very best staff within the league. That’s the place our mindset is at.”
They’ve dominated the collection’ first intervals. On the opposite bench is a proficient facet that’s been powerful to kill.
If there’s drama left on this collection, it can probably have to start Monday night time in Tampa.