After losing in Game 2, the Tampa Bay Lightning needed several things to happen in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at home: a better first period and a bye.
They got both and carried it to a 6-2 victory that cut their deficit against the Colorado Avalanche to two games to one and showed why they are a two-time defending champion. They took their home win streak to eight games, while the Avalanche lost for the first time on the road.
The Avalanche had scored three first-period goals in both games at Denver, winning 4-3 in overtime and 7-0. They seemed to get off to another fast start when the red-hot Valeri Nichushkin scored. But that’s when the breakup happened.
The Lightning video team, after lengthy examination, finally found a good angle and Lightning trainer Jon Cooper challenged the goal. The NHL, after a lengthy review, ruled that Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram had moved the puck slightly out of the zone and the play was out of play.
TV:Charles Barkley grills Jayson Tatum of the Celtics during the Stanley Cup Final telecast
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“It was long,” Avalanche trainer Jared Bednar said of the time the Lightning had to make the challenge. “Probably three times the length we normally get.”
Although Gabriel Landeskog put the Avalanche ahead 1-0 for real, Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat scored to give the Lightning their first lead of the series.
After a game where everything went wrong, Lightning had a lot to go right in Game 3, though the game was marred by an injury to star Nikita Kucherov.
♦ Nick Paul, who appeared injured in the first half, returned in the second half and put the Lightning up 3-1.
“In true hockey player fashion, he hangs in there and goes out and scores the eventual game winner,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos told reporters.
♦ Stamkos scored his first points of the series with a goal and an assist.
♦ Cirelli (13 games) and Corey Perry (nine games) ended long scoreless droughts.
♦ Perry got Lightning’s first power play goal of the series.
♦ Victor Hedman, a Norris Trophy finalist, had two assists and was a plus-3 after being a minus-4 in the first two games.
♦ Goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy returned to form with 37 saves, including a great early save on JT Compher.
“He kept us at it every step of the way,” Lightning forward Pat Maroon said. “That’s why Vasy is Vasy. He knows how to bounce back. He knows how to grow for us.”
The Lightning figured out a way to negate Colorado’s speed and will try to tie the series on Wednesday (8 pm ET) at Amalie Arena.
Tampa Bay trailed 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals before winning four straight against the New York Rangers.
“We knew this was pretty much a game we had to win,” Stamkos said. “I think we played like that tonight. I think our attention to detail was much better.”
Nikita Kucherov leaves the game after the check
Kucherov had two assists but left the game after Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews controlled him in the third period.
Cooper said he would have an update on Kucherov on Tuesday.
“It’s a contact game, but the guys know what they’re doing,” Cooper said of the play. “Smart, knowledgeable players know what they’re doing with their stick. We all saw it.”
Two key players sat out for Game 3 due to injury: Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky and Lightning forward Brayden Point.
Avalanche goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper retired after the fifth goal
Bednar took out goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper after he allowed five goals on 22 shots. Pavel Francouz gave up Rayo’s last goal.
“He didn’t have a good night,” Bednar said of Kuemper. “Our team doesn’t either. We win as a team, we lose as a team. We group him with everyone else.”
The Avalanche have used both goaltenders in the playoffs, primarily due to Kuemper’s injuries. Bednar, as expected, did not indicate who would start in Game 4.
NHL Awards Show on Tuesday
The NHL will announce the remaining award winners Tuesday night during an awards show (7 pm ET, ESPN). Still to be announced: Hart Trophy (MVP, writers’ vote), Ted Lindsay Award (MVP, players’ vote), Norris Trophy (defender), Vezina Trophy (goaltender) and Calder Trophy (rookie).