The Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning have been a trendy pick to meet in the Stanley Cup Final for years now. These two teams on the same ice may be the greatest collection of talent in the NHL. This game lived up to the hype despite Tampa Bay not having their best for much of the game.
After a high flying first period, Colorado was able to lock things down late to hold on to a 3-2 win at home. The Avalanche have still not lost in regulation in 2022.
Let’s break down what happened.
1. Rough Start
The Lightning have not been known for being a fast-starting team. Tampa Bay was slow to start, to say the least, adjusting to the altitude in Denver as the Avalanche jumped all over them from the opening faceoff. Colorado went up 2-0 and outshot Tampa Bay 13-0 before the Lightning even recorded a shot on goal. Colorado’s forecheck was extremely effective and the Lightning struggled with breaking the puck out of their own zone. Colorado forced a number of turnovers and forced Tampa Bay to play much of the first period scrambling inside their own zone.
2. Too Much to Overcome
Tampa Bay continued to push back and cut two different two goal deficits to one. Against one of the top teams in the NHL, it was too much to overcome in this one despite the Lightning throwing everything they had at Colorado in the third period. Tampa Bay’s game improved significantly in the second half of the second period and continued into the third. They were only able to post one goal to show for it as Darcy Kuemper played exceptionally in the Colorado net.
On two different occasions, the Avalanche took penalties while on the powerplay to cancel out their powerplay leading to prolonged sequences of skating four-on-four. Colorado is probably the fastest team in the NHL, and they were able to take advantage of the extra room on the ice and dominated the possession while skating four aside. The second and third goals for Colorado came while skating four-on-four and ultimately proved to be the biggest difference makers on the scoreboard.
4. Kucherov’s Return
Nikita Kucherov returned to the Lightning lineup after missing the last three games while being in COVID protocol. His presence was noticeable and the combination of him and Brayden Point threatened throughout the night. The two combined for a highlight reel goal in the first period that kept the Lightning afloat after the difficult start.
5. It would be a Treat to See These Teams Again
This contest between two of the league’s best was nothing short of fantastic- an absolute thriller. While the season series between these two teams may be over, if these two teams end up playing down the road in the Stanley Cup Final, buckle your seatbelts. There is still a long way to go until we can talk about that. Colorado has more to prove than Tampa Bay does in the playoffs, but these teams certainly play extremely entertaining hockey.