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Tampa Bay Lightning win a fun one over the Colorado Avalanche 1-0

On Wednesday night the Lightning headed to Colorado to face the Avalanche. This was the third game of a five-game road trip for the Bolts. As the middle game smushed between two back to backs, getting points was important tonight.

Both teams have high-end talent. The difference was the depth. The top line for the Avalanche of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen can play with any line in the league. But after that, they don’t have much to threaten the opposition. And that showed in this game.

The opening minutes were even with neither team generating much offense. That changed when Colorado drew the first penalty of the game three minutes into the opening period. Steven Stamkos hooked Landeskog giving the Avalanche the advantage.

Colorado took over the game spending the majority of the two minutes in the Lightning zone with the top power play unit creating multiple scoring chances. Tampa was not able to gain control the puck for any meaningful amount of time and the pressure to keep Colorado from scoring fell mostly on goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. He was up to the task and deserves the credit for the Bolts surviving that first power play.

Back at 5v5, neither team was able to generate much sustained offense and that would be the theme of the first period. Offense came in short bursts with long stretches of good play but no results.

The Lightning got their first good scoring chance on a great play by JT Miller. He rushed through the neutral zone, split the Colorado defense, and got a good look at Semyon Varlamov. He wasn’t able to finish but drew a hooking penalty on Tyson Jost.

The Lightning weren’t nearly as dangerous on the power play as the Avalanche. They struggled to get set up in the offensive zone and never threatened to score.

At the end of the power play, MacKinnon carried the puck through the neutral zone beating Anton Stralman badly and created a 2 on 1 rush with Landeskog. MacKinnon passed the puck to Landeskog who beat Vasilevskiy to give the Avs a 1-0 lead.

The goal wouldn’t last. The Lightning immediately challenged the zone entry for being offsides and video review showed conclusively that was a good decision and the goal was overturned.

The Lightning immediately gave up another prime scoring chance to the Avs top line and this stretch was the most impressive for either team at 5v5 in the period. After that flurry, the game settled back into its previous pace with both teams playing evenly matched hockey.

The Lightning had a few good chances in the second half of the period but weren’t able to convert. First, Mathieu Joseph hit the post on a clean look from the slot following a pass by Alex Killorn. With under four minutes left, Nikita Kucherov created two consecutive chances. First, a shot for himself in the slot. And then he nearly slid a pass back door to Ondrej Palat who would have had an open net but the pass was deflected.

Killorn took a late hooking penalty with under three minutes left in the period. The Lightning penalty kill was much better the second time around limiting Colorado’s chances. The first period ended scoreless.

The second period started similar to the first with neither team able to establish control. A little less than halfway through the period, Yanni Gourde took umbrage with a Marko Dano hit from behind on Dan Girardi and both Gourde and Dano took five minute penalties for fighting.

With Gourde having climbed all the way to the top line, he doesn’t need to take penalties like that. He’s too valuable to be sitting for five minutes in a close game. Teams will swap a fourth liner for him every time if he gives them the opportunity.

Nikita Kucherov drew the first non-matching penalty of the period with eight minutes to go in the period. The power play created some good chance but again, wasn’t able to convert. The game opened up for a bit after the penalty with both teams generating some rush chances.

The Bolts failed to convert on a 3-on-1 as Cirelli and Gourde got jumbled up on the same side of the ice. Bolts defenders stopped two separate 2-on-1 rushes for Colorado. First, Mikhail Sergachev stopped one. And later, Ryan McDonagh stopped a 2-on-1 featuring MacKinnon and Landeskog.

The Avs again drew a late penalty on Alex Killorn. This time, Gabriel Borque got in free on Vasilevskiy after a pass from MacKinnon and Killorn took a penalty to slow him. The Bolts killed the penalty including a big save from The Big Cat on a clean low slot look from MacKinnon.

The Lightning nearly took the lead in the last few seconds of the period on a give-and-go with Kucherov and Steven Stamkos but Kuch’s shot hit Victor Hedman and the period ended scoreless.

The third period started hot for Colorado with an immediate chance right in front of the net for Landeskog. MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen combined to take the puck from McDonagh behind the net and Rantanen fed a perfect pass to Landeskog. Vasilevskiy came up with another big save to keep the game scoreless.

The Lightning responded with a push and would take over the game from there. They created chaos in front of the Avalanche net with Stamkos and Gourde having multiple chances to score but they were unable to beat Varlamov.

Five minutes into the period, Tyson Barrie was called for a soft holding penalty. That penalty led to the breakthrough goal. With ten seconds left on the power play, Kucherov and Stamkos connected on one of their patented cross-ice give and gos. Kuch got the finish and gave the Lightning the lead.

The last great chance for Colorado came with thirteen minutes left. MacKinnon appeared to be in clean on a breakaway but McDonagh made another huge play to disrupt him and prevent the shot.

From there, the Lightning defended successfully and controlled the game. The Avalanche generated some good shots. Dano had a chance. Alex Kerfoot got two good looks at Vasilevskiy. But ultimately, they couldn’t beat him.

Anton Stralman took a rough delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass late in the period. MacKinnon had the best chance on the power play from the left circle on the rush but Vasilevskiy squared him up and made the save.

The Avalanche pulled the goalie with a little under two minutes left leading to some wild sequences where the Lightning somehow failed to hit the empty net. Miller, Gourde, and Cedric Paquette all had chances they could have finished but the game ended in a 1-0 final.

Overall, the Lightning played well and took control of the game in the third period when it mattered. Their best players combined to score the game-winner. Vasilevskiy came up huge with the shutout.

On the other side, The Avs look like they’re going to be a feisty team and their top line is a nightmare for opponents. If they can find some depth, they’ll become a problem for everyone in the Western Conference.

The Bolts are off tomorrow and will return to action with a back-to-back against Vegas on Friday and Arizona on Saturday.

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