Lightning look like the upstarts in Game 1 loss to Avalanche

Jun 15, 2022, 9:18 AM | Updated: 9:54 pm

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) jumps over Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnso...

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) jumps over Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (6) as Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) watches the puck during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

DENVER (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t the ones who looked like the two-time defending champions in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night.

The Colorado Avalanche, playing for the first time in nine nights, raced to 2-0 and 3-1 leads in the first period by punching pucks past otherworldly goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had allowed just 2.27 goals per game in these playoffs.

“The first 10 minutes, we weren’t our best,” Lightning forward Patrick Maroon said. “We weren’t our best tonight. But I like the finish in our game, though.”

Well, except for the actual ending.

Colorado withstood Tampa Bay’s rally to improve to 13-2 in these playoffs and prevail 4-3 on Andre Burakovsky’s goal 1:23 into overtime.

The winner came after a bad turnover by Mikhail Sergachev, whose second-period goal tied it at 3.

Home teams have won 64 consecutive Cup Final games when leading by two or more goals, per ESPN. The last team to blow a two-goal lead and lose was the New York Rangers against Vancouver in 1994.

The Avalanche peppered reigning playoffs MVP Vasilevskiy with plenty of pucks in the first period and Ball Arena was rocking, those $1,000 tickets looking like bargains.

The Avalanche scored a whopping 65 goals in 14 playoff games to reach the Stanley Cup Final — their 6.46 scoring average the best in the playoffs in 30 years — and they netted two more goals in the first 10 minutes of the first period.

The two-time defending champions’ pedigree showed up with Ondrej Palat and Sergachev scoring goals less than a minute apart in the second period against Darcy Keumper, who was playing in his first game since May 31 against Edmonton, to knot things up at 3.

It stayed that way until 1:23 into overtime.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper insisted Vasilevskiy wasn’t to blame for the loss, suggesting nobody in a Lightning sweater played better than his goaltender who stopped 22 straight shots before Burakovsky’s winner eluded his left skate.

“Vassy, obviously, is a difference maker,” Sergachev said. “He is the best goalie in the world. He’s our best player. So he’s a difference-maker and he can steal games, he can win games by himself. He almost did it tonight.”

Vasilevskiy allowed three goals in a first period of a playoff game for the first time in his career, according to NHL Stats.

The Avalanche’s legs were both fast and fresh in their first game in nine days and their first Stanley Cup appearance in 21 years.

Throw in the altitude and the Avalanche’s attitude, maybe some choppy ice and definitely some uneven play early on from Vasilevskiy, who allowed uncharacteristic goals like the one Valeri Nichuskin put past him in the first period. That puck was the first to go through Vasilevskiy’s legs this entire postseason.

These Avalanche may be the upstarts but they’re not fazed by the prospect of having to dethrone the two-time defending champions to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Their confidence, like the thin air in the Mile High City, is sky high.

“I mean why not?” said captain Gabriel Landeskog, whose goal less than eight minutes into the game opened the scoring. “We’re in the Stanley Cup Final. We’ve earned this spot. We put a lot of hard work in. Obviously, we have a lot of respect for these guys — but not too much.”

Sergachev shrugged off the loss, suggesting there was plenty of good things that happened, like coming back to tie it and skate evenly with the fast Avalanche for much of the night.

“It’s the usual stuff. We lost Game 1s before,” Sergachev said. “It’s a series, so we’ll take a day off tomorrow and just chill, clear our heads and practice, go out at Game 2. So nothing changes for us. We’re still a confident group.”

Lightning longtime captain Steven Stamkos said the key Saturday night in Game 2 is not playing catch-up and chasing the quick Avalanche.

“We’ll look to get off to a better start next game and play with the lead a little bit,” he said. “That’s a really good hockey team, they got some exceptional players that can make plays and will look to improve.”

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said his players now have a feel for how fast the Avalanche play, and that will help them this weekend.

“They come out pretty strong. We hadn’t seen them in a while, so it was nice to get a feel,” concurred Alex Killorn. “They had some incredible players that do a lot of good stuff on the ice, but I think we understand exactly what they are.”

A formidable opponent that might very well keep the Lightning from becoming the first team to win three Stanley Cups in a row since the New York Islanders won their fourth straight in 1983.


Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arniestapleton


More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Lightning look like the upstarts in Game 1 loss to Avalanche