The Colorado Avalanche are one win from their first Stanley Cup title since 2001, thanks to Nazem Kadri’s overtime goal on Wednesday. Even if the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning don’t believe it should have counted.
Kadri scored at 12:02 of the extra period to give Colorado a 3-2 victory in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final.
Without specifically saying Tampa Bay felt Colorado had too many men on the ice for the winning goal, the Lightning coach, Jon Cooper, suggested the goal should not have been allowed. “We’re all in this together. Players, coaches, refs, everybody. But this one is going to sting much more than others,” he said.
“It’s going to be hard for me to speak… I’ll speak with you [on Thursday]. You’re going to see what I mean when you see the winning goal. And my heart breaks for the players. Because we probably still should be playing.”
The NHL released a statement saying the penalty is a judgment call that can be made by the on-ice officials. All of the four officials said they did not see there were too many men on the ice on the winning play. The call is not subject to video review.
Back in the lineup after being sidelined since June 4 with a thumb injury, Kadri skated in on Andrei Vasilevskiy and slipped a shot under the goaltender’s right arm to give Colorado a 3-1 series lead. “That was a huge win. A resilient win,” said Kadri, who had been sidelined since being injured during Game 3 of the Western Conference final against Edmonton.
“I’ve been waiting for this my whole life. I figured it was time to join the party.”
The Avalanche outshot the Lightning 11-3 in the extra period. Vasilevskiy stopped Logan O’Connor on a breakaway and Colorado had one shot clang off the post and another hit the crossbar before Kadri ended it.
Anthony Cirelli scored 36 seconds into the game and Victor Hedman also scored in regulation for the Lightning. They took a 2-1 lead into the third period. Nathan MacKinnon scored on a second-period power play for Colorado and Andrew Cogliano tied it early in the third.
Darcy Kuemper, pulled from Game 3 after giving up five goals in a 6-2 loss, stopped 37 shots and had an assist of the winning goal for the Avalanche. Vasilevskiy finished with 35 saves. He has rebounded from allowing 11 goals in Games 1 and 2 to limit the high-scoring Avalanche to five in the past two games.
The Lightning are trying to become the first team to win at least three straight Stanley Cup titles since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83. The Avalanche last won the Cup in 2001.
The Lightning had rebounded from playing poorly in Games 1 and 2 to make it interesting by neutralizing Colorado’s speed, limiting the Avalanche’s scoring opportunities and turning up the pressure on Kuemper, who was barely tested when he faced 16 shots in a 7-0 blowout in Game 2.
Cirelli’s goal was the fastest in a Stanley Cup final since 2006 and the Lightning set the tone for another busy night for Kuemper by outshooting the Avalanche 17-4 in the opening period. Two of Colorado’s shots came while skating shorthanded, killing off Tampa Bay’s first power play.
MacKinnon’s first goal of the series – his 12th of the playoffs – erased Colorado’s early deficit at 5:17 of the second period. The Avalanche pulled even again when Cogliano, assisted by Nico Sturm and Darren Helm, scored on a deflection less than three minutes into the third.
Game 5 is Friday night in Denver, where Colorado won the first two games of the series and are 7-2 this postseason.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism