DENVER – As one of the good hockey clichés goes, a loss is still a loss, whether by one goal or seven goals. However, the Tampa Bay Lightning are hoping Saturday night’s game doesn’t leave a mark.
The Colorado Avalanche outplayed the Lightning from start to finish to earn a resounding 7-0 win in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Avalanche leave the electrifying atmosphere of the Ball Arena with a 2-0 lead in the final. She had triumphed in overtime in the first game.
For the Lightning, it’s now a matter of repeating what they accomplished in the previous round when they racked up four straight wins from a 2-0 deficit against the New York Rangers.
Game 3 of the finals will take place Monday night at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Cale Makar and Valeri Nichushkin both moved the ropes twice to lead the Avalanche’s offense, who kept their rivals busy from the early games of the night. Andre Burakovsky added a goal and an assist while Darren Helm and Josh Manson added a goal each.
Mikko Rantanen was instrumental in three goals for his team, while Alex Newhook and Andrew Cogliano both contributed to two goals for the Avalanche. It took Darcy Kuemper just 17 saves to post his first playoff shutout.
Despite allowing seven goals from 30 shots, Andrei Vasilevskiy saved the furniture for the Lightning several times. The Russian goalkeeper faced multiple manpower and multiple breakaways, but he couldn’t do it alone.
The Avalanche got off to a spectacular start and stormed Vasilevskiy’s net. That intensity forced Ryan McDonagh to incur a costly roughing penalty.
Colorado troops quietly weaved their web on the power play and Burakovsky played a lively pass into the gap. Well positioned, Nichushkin steered the puck behind the Lightning goalie.
The Avalanche’s speed and pressure got their opponents in trouble minutes later. Nichushkin and Gabriel Landeskog buzzed just wide of the net and the Swede’s shot was deflected off the field by Erik Cernak. Moments later, Rantanen served Jan Rutta a cup of coffee, but his backhand shot caught Vasilevskiy’s left shoulder.
It was just a reprieve for the home side, who used weak offensive pressure from McDonagh to double their lead. Andrew Cogliano started an overplay by shoving the disc to Manson, and the defender fooled Vasilevskiy’s vigilance thanks to a wrist shot from under the blocker.
Things didn’t get any better for the visitors who saw Burakowski threading the thread at 1:52 p.m. The hero of game one of the finals shoved the puck to Rantanen before scoring on the Finn’s return.
The Avalanche’s dominance continued in the second period and the crowd favorite added two goals.
After catching a loose puck behind the net, Lightning forward Ondrej Palat passed the object to Rantanen. The latter quickly spotted Nichushkin in the middle of the circles and the Russian moved the ropes for the second time in the match.
The Avalanche’s counterattacks had bothered the Lightnings in the first half, allowing Jared Bednar’s men to take a 5-0 lead. Logan O’Connor blocked a pass from Ross Colton and Helm used his speed to get into the enemy zone. His sharp shot surprised Vasilevskiy over the glove.
Even the Avalanche’s undermanned unit got involved from the third minute of the final period. Makar snagged the disc in his turf and managed a two-for-one run, which he himself finished with a powerful shot under Vasilevskiy’s blocker.
Powerplay added the finishing touches to a virtually flawless performance by the Avalanche as Makar snapped out on a nice three-way rally.
Vasilevskiy deprives Nichushkin of a hat-trick