Avalanche rout Lightning 7-0 to take 2-0 lead in Cup Final

Jun 18, 2022, 7:57 AM | Updated: Jun 20, 2022, 11:00 am
Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning...

Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

              Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper celebrates after the Avalanche defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-0 in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver.(AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper celebrates after the Avalanche defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-0 in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver.(AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Colorado Avalanche players celebrate a goal by Valeri Nichushkin as Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Nicholas Paul, left, skates past during the first period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Fans watch a ceremony before Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final between the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
            
              Colorado Avalanche right wing Valeri Nichushkin celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Colorado Avalanche center Darren Helm (43) shoots for a goal during the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Colorado Avalanche center Darren Helm, left, celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning with center Andrew Cogliano (11) during the second period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)
            
              Colorado Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson (3) controls the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning center Ross Colton (79) defends during the third period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)

DENVER (AP) — Looking like by far the better team against the defending champions, the Colorado Avalanche overwhelmed the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-0 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Valeri Nichushkin scored his seventh and eighth goals of the playoffs and continued to be the best player on the ice in the final, Game 1 overtime hero Andre Burakovsky beat Andrei Vasilevskiy again and even defensive defenseman Josh Manson and 35-year-old grinder Darren Helm got in on the fun with a goal apiece. Playoff MVP front-runner Cale Makar scored twice in the third period, inciting chants of “We want the Cup!” from a fired up crowd.

“They’re playing at an elite level right now — give them credit. We are not,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “They’re two good teams. They’re just playing a much higher level right now than we are.”

Rarely have the Lightning been completely outclassed during this run of postseason success, but they also hadn’t faced an opponent like the Avalanche, who forced them into one uncharacteristic mistake after another. Colorado was dominant in every facet of the game to move two victories away from its first title since 2001 and the first by this core led by Nathan MacKinnon.

The Avalanche go to Tampa for Game 3 on Monday night up in the series despite no goals in the series from MacKinnon. They still became just the third team in NHL history to score three-plus goals in the first period of Games 1 and 2 in the final.

“We played a pretty good game,” Helm said. “We just played a full 60-minute game.”

The dominant performance started by pouncing on an early mistake by typically reliable Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak when he bobbled the puck at the blue line on one of the game’s first shifts. It was all Avalanche after that.

Their aggressive forecheck led them to draw a penalty on veteran Ryan McDonagh, score on the ensuing power play when Burakovsky fed Nichushkin for his first of the night. It wasn’t his last, and Colorado poured it on with six of the game’s first seven shots and complete territorial domination with much of the game played in the Tampa Bay end.

“We came out with a purpose,” said forward Andew Cogliano, who returned after missing Game 1 with a right finger injury. “We got to our game, we skated from the drop of the puck and we just didn’t let up. “

With Vasilevskiy — whose play was the key to the Lightning’s incredible ability to bounce back after a loss in the playoffs — looking shaky and even dropping his head after letting Makar beat him clean on one of many 2-on-1 rushes, the Avalanche made the most of all their offensive zone time. The highest-scoring team this postseason put on a clinic against the team that has played more hockey than anyone else over the past two years.

That may finally be taking its toll, and it’s exacerbated by the blazing speed with which the Avalanche play. They again not only outskated the Lightning but used quick feet to force errors that turned into goals.

“Am I shocked that we lost 7-zip?” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “I mean, I don’t think we saw that coming.”

Tampa Bay fell to 18-2 after a loss since the start of the first round in 2020. The streak of 18 in a row ended in the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers when the Lightning fell behind 2-0 before roaring back, though it’s hard to see Colorado falling into the same trap.

Even if players brush off the concept of momentum from game to game during a playoff series, their romp over the champs combined with a 7-0 road record should fill the Avalanche with confidence. But they might again need to dip into their pool of depth because of injuries.

After getting Andrew Cogliano back from missing the season opener with a right finger injury, the Avalanche lost Burakovsky again in the second period. Burakovsky blocked a shot in the first game in the West final and has been playing through pain since. Coach Jared Bednar said he would be re-evaluated ahead of Game 2.

Colorado is inflicting plenty of pain on Tampa Bay, which resorted to some rough stuff after falling behind. Of course, even MacKinnon was throwing hits in the third period despite the game being well in hand.

Darcy Kuemper was barely tested in net for Colorado, picking up the shutout with 17 saves.

“He was just rock solid,” Manson said. “He was exactly what we needed to be.”

___

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

___

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.

AP

NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (19) takes the checkers flag to win the Busch Light Clash...
Associated Press

Truex wins NASCAR’s sloppy return to Los Angeles Coliseum

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. won NASCAR’s return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for its season-opening exhibition race — a sloppy Sunday night extravaganza in which the Wiz Khalifa halftime show might have been the most entertaining part of the event. Truex took the lead with 25 laps to go in the […]
20 hours ago
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) reacts in the second half of an NBA basketball game against ...
Associated Press

Morant says friend banned from arena over Pacers dispute

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant tweeted Sunday that a friend of his has been banned from games at FedExForum for a year as a result of a confrontation between his supporters and members of the Indiana Pacers organization a week earlier. The NBA confirmed that unnamed individuals have been banned from […]
20 hours ago
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) goes up for a dunk during the first half of an NBA...
Associated Press

Timberwolves cruise to 128-98 win against Jokic-less Nuggets

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — D’Angelo Russell had 14 of his 18 points in the first quarter and added 10 assists, Anthony Edwards scored 20 and the Minnesota Timberwolves cruised to a 128-98 win Sunday night against the Denver Nuggets, who were missing two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and three other starters on the second night of a […]
20 hours ago
New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) shoots against Sacramento Kings guard Davion Mitchell (1...
Associated Press

Murphy scores season-high 30, Pelicans top Kings 136-104

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Trey Murphy III highlighted his season-high 30-point performance with six 3-pointers — a couple from well behind the arc — and the New Orleans Pelicans overcame the absence of several starters to beat the Sacramento Kings 136-104 on Sunday night. CJ McCollum scored 24 points for the Pelicans, who shot 57.1% […]
20 hours ago
Philadelphia 76ers guard Shake Milton (18) drives against New York Knicks guard Quentin Grimes (6) ...
Associated Press

Knicks rally from 21 points down, beat 76ers 108-97

NEW YORK (AP) — Julius Randle had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, Jalen Brunson scored 21 points and the New York Knicks overcame an early 21-point deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 108-97 on Sunday night. Evan Fournier came off the bench to add 17 points for the Knicks, who were playing a […]
20 hours ago
Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) drives against Memphis Grizzlies forward David Roddy (27...
Associated Press

Siakam, Raptors rally past Grizzlies 106-103 as Morant sits

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Pascal Siakam scored 19 points, including a pair of free throws with 9 seconds left, and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 106-103 on Sunday. Jaren Jackson Jr. missed a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left that would have tied the game for the Grizzlies, […]
20 hours ago
Avalanche rout Lightning 7-0 to take 2-0 lead in Cup Final