Like a stuffy nose suddenly clearing, a pampered laptop running smoothly after a reboot, or that fan that stopped making that weird noise when you turned it off and knocked a few times, the Tampa Bay Lightning has come home for Game 3 of the Stanley Final of Copa, having inexplicably fixed everything that had gone so wrong for them in Game 2. In a sweeping 6-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, the Lightning not only gained a foothold back in this series, but also sent their invincible opponents struggling. for answers, forcing a Game 4 where the Avs will be on edge and under pressure to reassert dominance.
It didn’t start out that hot for the Bolts, and indeed the apparent first goal of this game appeared to be a continuation of the last one, as Val Nichushkin apparently took his fourth in the series when he landed a shot from Andrei Vasilevskiy. But the ungentlemanly choice of a Lightning replay review, coupled with the zoom and enhance technology available to the modern NHL, revealed that the puck left the area briefly in the construction of the objective. It doesn’t matter. Gabe Landeskog kept the Avs in action with a power play rebound goal from close range that made it 1-0.
But then, interestingly, it all started to work out for Lightning. Anthony Cirelli – who has the heart of a penalty shooter and has scored just one goal in every playoff, in the first round – won Pavel Bure’s soul out of nowhere. That tie score was about 75 percent beauty, in the speed and the way the puck comes into his control off the board, and about 25 percent luck, with the way he’s able to get past Darcy Kuemper. just before the wheels come off.
And then Lightning really looked like Lightning again with his second goal. They just did what their great forwards did some mesmerizing passes and ended up with an incredible opportunity to score. Why didn’t they do that in Game 2, which they wandered around without any kind of effective counter? I don’t know, but those of us with very short memories can now appreciate its lethality again.
It got better when Nick Paul, a key mid-season acquisition for the Sens, came back from an in-game hit to score what turned out to be the game-winner. And when Landeskog got one back to keep things close for the Avalanche early in the second, the grizzled Lightning veterans buried Colorado for good with a seven-minute trio of goals. Steven Stamkos received a pass from Nikita Kucherov in the slot and didn’t waste his chance. Then Pat Maroon — damn Pat Maroon — took Kuemper out of the game with a small, conniving kick close enough to touch. And finally, Corey Perry – who joined Lightning after failing to beat them in two straight finals – welcomed Pavel Francouz to the net, extending the lead to four. That’s where he stayed for the rest of the night.
Perhaps the most convincing explanation for the sudden reversal in this series is also the most superstitious. Lightning was losing Brayden Point, who came back to two losses in Denver after losing 10 games in which Tampa went 8-2. The Avs, meanwhile, were without Andre Burakovsky, who scored the OT’s game-winning goal in Game 1 and has been something like lightning poison in the past.
More realistically though, Tampa is a great team with a lot of experience, and the emotional edge provided by this first home game would always make them the most winnable. While it’s a little surprising to see them return to championship form after looking dead alongside the I-25 on Saturday, it’s not exactly an eye-popping shock that the back-to-back Cup winners were able to play well and win a game. of hockey. Now it’s time for Avalanche to draw the same lesson from this loss, which is that past results don’t have to predict future results.
“We try to stay as balanced as possible,” Colorado captain Landeskog said after the game. “Even when we win, it’s not very important. And when you lose, it’s the same thing. You watch some videos, you watch some tapes, and you learn and get better from it.”