Posts Tagged ‘2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs’

The Tampa Bay Lightning spoiled Colorado’s party to stay in the hunt for a third straight Stanley Cup title, beating the Avalanche 3-2 on Friday night in Game 5.

Ondrej Palat scored with 6:22 remaining and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 36 shots in front of a raucous crowd hoping to celebrate the Avalanche’s first championship in 21 years. The Cup was all shined up and in the building, too.

It’s heading back to Tampa for Game 6 on Sunday night. The Lightning trail the best-of-seven series 3-2.

Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Jan Rutta also scored for the Lightning. Valeri Nichushkin and Cale Makar had goals for Colorado. Makar’s third-period tally bounced off the skate of Erik Cernak and through the pads of Vasilevskiy to tie it at 2.

It set the stage for Palat, whose shot slipped through the pads of Darcy Kuemper. A brief hush fell over the crowd.

Tampa Bay regrouped after an emotional Game 4 loss at home on a overtime goal from Colorado forward Nazem Kadri. The Lightning felt the Avalanche might have had too many players on the ice on the winner.

A too many players on the ice penalty was called Friday on Colorado with 2:43 remaining. The Lightning went on the power play and made it so that Colorado couldn’t pull Kuemper until around 30 seconds remaining. They weathered the Avalanche’s late barrage.

Just the Lightning showing their championship mettle. They’ve already rallied back from a 3-2 deficit to Toronto in the first round, and climbed out of a 2-0 hole against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals.

Completing this comeback series win would put them in an entirely different category. Only one team has rallied to capture a Game 7 in the final after trailing 3-1 in a series — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

This is a gritty Lightning squad that’s showing no signs of slowing down even against a speedy Avalanche team and even after all the contests they’ve logged. Tampa Bay has played in 67 postseason games since the start of the first round in 2020. That’s basically an entire extra season.

Their resolve has impressed Lightning coach Jon Cooper. His team improved to 3-0 this season when facing potential elimination games.

The Avalanche are trying to capture their first title since 2001. The Avalanche fans were out in full force — both inside the building (an upper-level ticket on game day was going for around $1,500) and outside at a nearby watch party.

Colorado knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Makar said leading into the game this was the “toughest one that we’ve had so far.”

The Avalanche are 2 for 2 in their visits to the Stanley Cup Final. They also won in 1996, which was their inaugural season in Denver after relocating from Quebec.

Soon after Nichushkin tied it at 1-apiece in the second, Kucherov knocked in a goal off the post. The power-play goal was with Alex Killorn in the box for holding, along with J.T. Compher (holding the stick) and Makar (tripping), making for a 4-on-3 situation.

Rutta zapped some of the energy from the crowd with his first goal of the playoffs. It was on a slapshot from the side that slipped through Kuemper.

It bode well for the Lightning — teams that score the first goal when staring at elimination in the final are 55-25.

“If we had our choice, we would just write our name all the way around the circle (of the Cup),” Cooper cracked before the game.

Steven Stamkos, Pat Maroon and Ondrej Palat each had a goal and an assist, and the Tampa Bay Lighting scored four times in the second period and beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-2 Monday night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Anthony Cirelli, Nicholas Paul and Corey Perry also scored to help the two-time defending champion Lightning bounce back after playing poorly while losing the first two games on the road. Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman had two assists, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 37 shots.

Stamkos, Paul, Maroon and Perry scored in the second period, when the Lightning chased Colorado goalie Darcy Kuemper while pulling away to trim their series deficit to 2-1.

Gabriel Landeskog had two goals and Mikko Rantanen had two assists for the Avalanche. Kuemper gave up five goals on 22 shots before he was replaced by Pavel Francouz, who finished with nine saves.

Game 4 is Wednesday night at Amalie Arena, where the Lightning have won a franchise-record eight straight playoff games and Colorado lost on the road for the first time this postseason.

Two nights after being limited to just 16 shots in a 7-0 loss in Denver, the Lightning rebounded by finally finding way to neutralize Colorado’s speed and solve Kuemper to avoid falling to the brink of elimination.

The Avalanche lifted their goaltender when Maroon scored a soft goal that put the Lightning up 5-2 with 8:45 remaining in the second. Perry reached behind Francouz to tap in a rebound that came off the right post to make 6-2 with 5:02 left in the period.

The back-to-back champions overcame a 2-0 series deficit in the Eastern Conference final to eliminate the New York Rangers in six games. They’re looking to do it again against Colorado to complete their quest for the NHL’s first three-peat in nearly 40 years.

Cale Makar barely broke a smile after scoring his second goal and Colorado’s seventh of the night. He fist-bumped Mikko Rantanen to thank him for the pass and skated to the bench.

He and the Avalanche are calm, confident, and rolling. They’re now two wins from dethroning the two-time defending champions.

Looking like by far the better team, the 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.

Coach Jared Bednar called it “as close to perfect of a game as you can get from your players.”

“I feel like we played to our identity to a ‘T’ tonight,” Makar said. “We had some good goals and stuff like that. … It was a little bit of a weird one tonight. Obviously, we’re getting opportunities but guys were able to able to capitalize, so that’s the good part.”

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. Makar, who didn’t even have a shot on goal in Game 1, 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, who at times has played like a man possessed in an effort to finally break through and hoist the Cup. 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 and 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.

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.

“We came out with a purpose,” said forward Andrew 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.”

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.

The way the Lightning lost this one — by far their biggest blowout loss during this run — came as a surprise to just about everyone.

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

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. 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.”

 Andre Burakovsky scored 1:23 into overtime and the Colorado Avalanche opened the Stanley Cup Final with a 4-3 victory over the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.

Burakovsky ended it after the Avalanche failed to score on a power play that began late in regulation when three-time champ Patrick Maroon put the puck over the glass. Burakovsky is one of only two Avalanche players who have won the Cup.

The game likely wouldn’t have even reached OT if not for big penalty kills by the Avalanche, who were 3 for 3 against Tampa Bay’s potent power play. The final kill featured a crucial save by goaltender Darcy Kuemper and a series of clears by Norris Trophy finalist defenseman Cale Makar.

An earlier kill built momentum for Colorado, which opened the scoring on captain Gabriel Landeskog’s goal 40 seconds after Josh Manson’s penalty expired. Manson — one of general manager Joe Sakic’s expensive trade deadline pickups — more than made up for a holding the stick minor with some big hits.

The Avalanche’s other deadline acquisition also kept up his knack for scoring key goals. Artturi Lehkonen had their third goal of the first period after Valeri Nichuskin scored the second as part of a dominant performance all over the ice.

Tampa Bay’s latest additions also played a major role, with Nick Paul outracing Colorado defenseman Jack Johnson to a loose puck for a goal in the first that limited the damage and kept the defending champs in the game. Brandon Hagel, who has been banged up and was a question mark to play, got beaten to a loose puck by Landeskog, an uncharacteristic goal for reigning playoff MVP Andrei Vasilevskiy to give up by letting the initial shot sneak through under his left arm.

In another example of what has made the Lightning the NHL’s best team over the past three years, they turned the tide in the second period with goals by Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev 48 seconds apart. That set the stage for the first of what should be many fantastic finishes in a series between evenly matched opponents.

The arena was rocking from the start of warmups for the first Stanley Cup Final game in the city in 2001 — also the last year the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup, with Sakic serving as captain. Fans chanted, “We want the Cup!” throughout the leadup and at times during the game, which was a showcase of the high-scoring hockey that has been the standard all season.

Tampa Bay’s most prolific goal-scorer from each of the past two title runs was back, with center Brayden Point returning to play his first game since injuring his right leg a month ago.

Colorado has a series lead despite playing without forwards Nazem Kadri (right thumb) and Andrew Cogliano (right hand), who were injured last series in a sweep of Edmonton in the Western Conference final.

The Avalanche swept Nashville in the first round, as well, and dispatched rival St. Louis in six before taking out Connor McDavid and the Oilers. If anything, Game 1 against the Lightning showed this series won’t be easy for either team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the New York Rangers with a 2-1 victory in Game 6 on Saturday to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season.

Tampa Bay will take on the Colorado Avalanche in the final looking to become the first NHL team to three-peat since the New York Islanders’ dynasty of the early 1980s.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos scored both goals in the dramatic win. His second came 21 seconds after the Rangers’ Frank Vatrano tied the contest with 6:53 remaining in the third period.

“It’s just going out and just playing as hard as you can for the next guy that sits beside you in that locker room,” Stamkos said, per NHL.com’s Chris Krenn. “That’s why this group is so special.”

Stamkos added: “We trust every guy that goes over those boards to do his job. Whether you score a goal or not, it’s the little things that you do. It’s the defending. It’s the blocked shots. It’s the sacrifice. It’s not complaining about your role.”

Superstar goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 20 stops in the win to continue his postseason dominance. In his last eight series-clinching games, the reigning Conn Smythe winner has a .991 save percentage along with a 0.25 goals-against average and six shutouts.

The Lightning became just the third team in league history to win at least 11 consecutive playoff series. The Islanders (19 from 1980-83) and Montreal Canadiens (13 from 1976-79) are the only teams to have won more.

The Stanley Cup Final is set to begin Wednesday in Denver.

Colorado finished the regular season as the top team in the Western Conference with 119 points. The club is 12-2 so far in the playoffs.

“Probably the best team in the league,” Stamkos said of the Avalanche, according to The Athletic’s Joe Smith. “We’re going to have our hands full.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final after beating the New York Rangers on Thursday night to nab a 3-2 series lead.

The home team had won every game in the Eastern Conference Final heading into Game 5, but the Bolts bucked that trend with a 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden.

Ondrej Palat scored the game-winner for Tampa Bay after he got a piece of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev‘s shot with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. Forward Brandon Hagel sealed the victory with an empty-netter.

Sergachev led the way for the Lightning, recording the team’s first goal of the contest and a helper.

Rangers blue-liner Ryan Lindgren opened the scoring midway through the second period. That was the only time New York put the puck past Lightning star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who dazzled with a 24-save performance.

Igor Shesterkin also played well, making 24 stops on 26 shots.

Game 6 is set for Saturday in Tampa Bay as the Lightning will attempt to get one step closer to claiming their third consecutive Stanley Cup.

The Tampa Bay Lightning delivered on a promise to play with a greater sense of urgency, storming back in the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers and keeping their bid for a third straight Stanley Cup title alive.

Nikita Kucherov scored on a breakaway and Andrei Vasilevskiy had 33 saves Tuesday night, helping the two-time defending NHL champions shut down the Rangers 4-1 and even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

“We’ve got ourselves squared up in this series. It’s great, much better than the position we were in a couple days ago. But this is where it gets down to the really tough stuff,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said.

“These next couple of games, we have to go on the road and we have to find a way to win a game in their barn,” Stamkos added. “We’re looking forward to that challenge, but I really like where our game is now compared to where it was a couple days ago.”

Kucherov took a pass from Ondrej Palat in the middle of the ice and skated in on goaltender Igor Shesterkin to give the Lightning a two-goal lead just over 13 minutes into the second period.

With Vasilevskiy back on his game following a slow start to the series, that turned out to be more than enough offensive support to hold off a Rangers team that’s suddenly found it difficult to score.

“They did a great job in the neutral zone. They collapsed pretty good in the ‘D’ zone. They blocked a lot of shots. They did the right things to win a hockey game,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said of the Lightning.

Stamkos, Palat and Pat Maroon had goals for Tampa Bay, which has rebounded from losing the first two games of the series on the road to bolster its chances of becoming the first team in nearly 40 years to win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

Game 5 is Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers won Games 1 and 2 and are 8-1 this postseason.

“We’ve done a good job at home. I think if you look around the league a lot of teams play better in their home building,” Gallant said.

“I’m disappointed tonight. I’m sure (the players) are,” the coach added. “But it’s a best two out of three, we still have the home-ice advantage, so we have to make sure we’re ready for the next game. The next one is big.”

Vasilevskiy stopped 28 of 30 shots to win Game 3 and was even better Tuesday night, when he extended a stretch in which he did not give up a goal to nearly 67 minutes before New York’s Artemi Panarin scored on the power play at 16:27 of the third period.

Until Vasilevskiy’s bid for a shutout ended, the Rangers hadn’t scored since Chris Kreider’s power-play goal put them up 2-0 at 9:44 of the second period in Game 3.

It has been all Tampa Bay since then, with Kucherov and Stamkos scoring to wipe out the Game 3 deficit before Palat won it in the final minute.

The defending champs started faster Tuesday night, scoring on Maroon’s rebound just 2:38 into the game.

It was the third goal of the playoffs for Maroon, a 34-year-old, fourth-line forward who’s chasing a fourth consecutive Stanley Cup title after winning with St. Louis in 2019 and signing with Tampa Bay before the following season.

Stamkos’ goal built the lead to 3-0 early in the third period. Palat added an empty-netter with 8.7 seconds remaining, finishing with a goal and two assists.

Shesterkin, who faced 51 shots in Game 3, stopped 27 of 30 shots Tuesday night.

“We’ve progressively gotten better, and I think we took some more positive steps tonight,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We had a bit of a layoff, and I think now we’re starting to find our game. Now, we just have to keep this going in New York.”

NOTES: The Rangers played without forward Ryan Strome (lower body), who was scratched after skating in pregame warmups. He was injured Sunday, when he exited in the second period after only playing a little over seven minutes. … New York forward Filip Chytil left just past the midpoint of the second period after a hit by Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. He missed the rest of the game with an upper-body injury. … The Lightning played for the seventh straight game without forward Brayden Point, who has been out of the lineup since suffering a lower-body injury during Game 7 of Tampa Bay’s first-round victory over Toronto.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse revealed he played through a torn hip flexor during his club’s Western Conference Final run, according to The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman.

The injury occurred in the final week of the regular season. The 27-year-old played in 15 of the Oilers’ 16 playoff games – he missed one due to a suspension – before they were swept by the top-seeded Colorado Avalanche on Monday night.

Nurse managed two goals and three assists during the postseason while averaging over 21 minutes per contest – nearly four full minutes less than what he logged in the regular season.

He wasn’t the Oilers’ only impact player fighting through injury, though. Superstar Leon Draisaitl was visibly laboring throughout Game 4 on Monday but wouldn’t divulge specifics.

“There are lots of guys who play through things,” Draisaitl said, per TSN’s Jason Gregor. “I won’t make this about me.”

However, Draisaitl’s mystery ailment didn’t slow his production. The German playmaker put up 32 points in 16 playoff games, including four in Monday’s loss.

Draisaitl became the second player in NHL history, along with Wayne Gretzky, to have seven three-point efforts in a single postseason, according to Sportsnet Stats.

The Colorado Avalanche are off to the Stanley Cup Final after completing a sweep of the Edmonton Oilers with a 6-5 overtime win Monday night.

Artturi Lehkonen scored the goal that sent Colorado to its first final since 2001. Remarkably, it’s the second year in a row Lehkonen’s been the hero in Round 3. He scored the overtime winner as a member of the Montreal Canadiens to send the Habs to the championship series last spring.

“I’d trade 10 first-rounders for him right now,” teammate Nathan MacKinnon said of Lehkonen, who Colorado acquired at the trade deadline in March.

Monday’s contest was an instant classic. Cale Makar opened the scoring in the first period, but the Oilers answered back with three consecutive goals in the middle frame.

Chaos ensued in the third, as the teams combined for six tallies. Mikko Rantanen put the Avalanche up 5-4 with just over five minutes to go, but Zack Kassian answered back less than two minutes later to send the high-octane contest to overtime.

Lehkonen’s winner came at 1:19 of the extra stanza.

Colorado will now await the winner of the New York Rangers-Tampa Bay Lightning series, which New York currently leads 2-1.

Just when it appeared the New York Rangers might be ready to push Tampa Bay to the brink of elimination, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning showed they were nowhere near finished.

Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos scored to wipe out a two-goal deficit, and Ondrej Palat finished a dramatic comeback with the 10th winning playoff goal of his career Sunday in a 3-2 victory that cut the Rangers’ lead in the Eastern Conference final to 2-1.

“We’ve been in spots like this,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “A big thing for us was, we felt we had a recipe, we just had to stay with it. I think there were times in the series where we’ve tried to manufacture things that weren’t there that put us on our heels, gave up opportunities. Whether it was a break, whatever it was, we weren’t in sync.”

Palat scored with 42 seconds left, off a nifty back pass from Kucherov, to cap a rally that began after Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider scored power-play goals in a span of just over two minutes to put the Rangers up 2-0 in the second period.

Facing the prospect of falling behind 3-0 in a series that began with a pair of losses on the road, the Lightning fought back with Kucherov scoring on the power play in the second period and Stamkos blistering a shot past goalie Igor Shesterkin from the left circle early in the third.

“We were down 2-0, and I don’t want to sit here and say we didn’t deserve to be down 2-0 because their power play has been great. …. But our 5-on-5 game I liked, and so we just needed to stick with that and stay out of the box,” Cooper said.

“I think in maybe years past — three, four years ago — maybe panic would’ve set in at some point, but not with this group. The power play got us going, and then we took off from there. But no question the ‘been there before’ has really helped our mindset in games.”

Kucherov had a goal and two assists.

Stamkos had a multi-point game, too, with a goal and an assist. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 shots after being outplayed by Shesterkin in Games 1 and 2.

“They were the better team tonight overall,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “It went right down to the wire and had a chance to win late. … Disappointing ,but we’ll move on and get ready for the next one.”

Game 4 is Tuesday night, with Tampa Bay looking to even the best-of-seven series and New York still in a position to move within one victory of its first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2014.

Artemi Panarin had two assists for the Rangers, and Adam Fox and Zibanejad had primary helpers on power-play goals resulting from a pair of penalties drawn by Shesterkin in the second period.

Tampa Bay’s Corey Perry was whistled for slashing on the first, and Riley Nash went to penalty box for interference before Kreider’s goal made it 2-0 midway through the period.

Despite taking some costly penalties that helped the Lightning get back in the game, and ultimately being unable to hold on to the lead, Gallant didn’t feel as though the Rangers let the game slip away.

“No, I didn’t sense that. Honestly. It was 2-0, there was a lot of hockey game left and they were playing well,” the New York coach said. “They were jumping. They were forcing us to make mistakes that we didn’t make in the prior two games. … I wouldn’t say we let it get away because they played really well. But we could have stolen it tonight and been up 3-0.”

Cooper cited poor puck management and the lack of a sense of urgency as factors in Tampa Bay starting the series slowly following a nine-day layoff the defending champs earned with a second-round sweep of the Presidents Trophy-winning Florida Panthers.

Neither of those were problems once the Lightning fell behind by two goals Sunday.

Shesterkin finished with 48 saves, but the Rangers wasted an opportunity to regain control of the game when Kucherov drew a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Zibanejad with just over nine minutes left.

In fact, New York lost the man-advantage when Jacob Trouba subsequently was penalized for tripping Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn.

Shesterkin made save after save to keep the Rangers from falling behind, but couldn’t get his glove up high enough to stop Palat’s winner.

“The third period for us just wasn’t good enough,” Fox said. “We were on our heels the whole time. Eventually they’re going to get one, and they did.”

Tampa Bay, which hadn’t lost consecutive playoff games in three years before dropping Games 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden, rallied from a 3-2 deficit to win its first-round series against Toronto in seven games.

NOTES: Lightning Brayden Point missed his sixth consecutive game with a lower body injury. He hasn’t played since leaving the lineup during Tampa Bay’s Game 7 victory over Toronto in the first round. … Rangers forward Ryan Strome left with an early injury, winding up playing a little more than seven minutes. … The Rangers lost to the Lightning for the first time this season. They entered Sunday 5-0 against the defending champ, with three of the wins coming during the regular season. … New York is 8-1 at home during the playoffs compared to 2-6 on the road.