Andrei Vasilevskiy made 44 saves on 47 shots in a 3-2 Tampa Bay Lightning loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov each scored for the Bolts, combining for 13 shots in the loss, with Mikhail Sergachev picking up an assist and six shots in a 24-minute night for him. For the Avalanche, Gabriel Landeskog, Devon Toews, and Valeri Nichushkin scored, while Darcy Kuemper gave up two goals on 38 shots.
It was a high intensity affair, with the Avalanche showing all their dominance at 5v5, while the Lightning did their best on counter attacks. Sergachev seemed to play really well against the Avs, alongside Point and Kucherov, as the trio were often seen together connecting through the neutral zone and rotating when they had the puck in the offensive zone.
As you can see, the Bolts put up quite a fight, but at the end of the day it all came down to their start and giving up two goals within the first six minutes of the game. The last three minutes were particularly intense.
The Bolts got caught chasing the Avs high in the zone such that they missed Landeskog drifting through the front of the net. Rantanen put the puck on net from the middle of the point and Landeskog tipped it past Vasilevskiy for the game’s opening goal.
Devon Toews extended the lead on a counterattack with a tip in from in front of the net. The Bolts were mostly in a good position, but were a little behind. What really happened was a couple Lightning players gravitated towards Kadri, but didn’t get close enough to take the puck away from him. Kadri then flipped the puck through Rutta and right to Toews, who was driving towards the net.
Kucherov, to Point, back to Kucherov... SCORE!!!! This was a sick play by the dynamic duo as they sifted through a flat-footed, static, sticks out Avs defenders before beating Kuemper with a slick give-and-go play.
It was not a good period for the Lightning as they got out-shot 2-to-1 by the Avalanche 14-28. In recent years, the Lightning have been as good or better than the Avalanche whenever the two sides go head-to-head, but after winning the Cup and sacrificing in the offseason, it’s not the same pair of offensive juggernauts like in previous years.
That’s not to say the Lightning are bad — they are not — but they aren’t the puck possession, dominate 5v5 team they used to be because of their old third line. Now, the Lightning have to win more scrappy games; low offense, get out-shot, but win using special teams, shooting, and goaltending. That’s not how the Avalanche win games, they’re more the traditional 5v5 dominators, so periods like this should not be surprising.
That said, the Lightning can still put up a heck of a fight as a counter attacking team, which they showed they can be in this game.
While at 4v4, Point had a great chance going one way on his backhand, but the Avs scored with Nichushkin shooting to give the Avs their two goal lead again less than two minutes into the period. Burakovsky had the assist on the goal as he recovered Point’s shot.
Sergachev with a beautiful stretch pass straight up the middle of the ice to Point. From there, the top center put it all away to bring the Bolts back within one. The goal was Point’s 17th of the season in his 33rd game, if he had been able to play all of Tampa’s 46 games, he’d have 24 goals and sit eighth in the league.
With about a minute to go in the period, Sergachev made another good play keeping the puck in at the offensive blueline. He got his head up quick and found the other scorer Kucherov in front of the net. Sergachev sent a shot-pass towards him that Kucherov got a stick on, but Kuemper cut down the angle and stopped him.
It was a much better second for the Lightning, who were able to keep the deficit within one as they put on 16 shots to the Avs 18. The Bolts are real bandits offensively, especially Point and Kucherov. They were the key to the offense for the Lightning, as beyond Stamkos making plays and getting half chances, they were the only players on a line to make something happen. I think on a night like this you really hope to get more from Stamkos’ linemates because he seemed pretty lonely with the puck.
Point and Kucherov continued to get good chances in the third period, as the Bolts tried to tie the game.
Stamkos robbed Kuemper right in front of the net from a pass behind the net by Killorn. So, so close to tying the game as the Lightning were applying lots of pressure for pretty much the entire middle of the period.
Point, Kucherov, and Sergachev connected again with a passing play inside the offensive zone, but Sergachev’s shot from the slot was blocked with six minutes left in regulation. Among the players who were quiet in this game, those three were definitely not.
With three minutes left on the clock, Joseph had a big shot from the point with Maroon in front of the net. Maroon nearly got his stick on the puck, but Kuemper got his paddle on it instead and deflected it wide.
With pi on the clock (3:14) Cooper pulled Vasy for the extra attacker. Killorn had a chance from Kucherov, but his shot went high.
The Bolts lost the zone and the Avs had three chances at the empty net, but Perry made two good blocks to keep the game alive.
With less than two minutes to go and the Avs having iced the puck, the Bolts had to put their second unit of six guys out on the ice because the first unit was so tired. The second unit, led by Sergachev, Palat, and a whole lot of heart, kept the pressure on for the whole minute, forcing the Avs to ice the puck AGAIN. The Avs had one group stuck on the ice for the full three minutes until Kuemper got his mitt on the puck with 16 seconds left. And that was the game.