A Momentum Shift? 4 Takeaways from the Lightning's Game 3 Win vs. Avalanche
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Stanley Cup Final after all.
Just when it looked like the Colorado Avalanche—7-0 winners in a jaw-dropping Game 2 rout Saturday—would surely skate the trophy into a Rocky Mountain sunset, things changed.
Or, more specifically, the Tampa Bay Lightning changed them.
Buoyed by a raucous Amalie Arena crowd, the two-time defending champions shook off a first-period gut punch and scored six of the last seven goals in a 6-2 win to make the Avalanche's title romp seem a trifle less predetermined.
The B/R hockey team was in the building for the momentum-shifting contest and put together a list of pertinent takeaways as the teams prep for Wednesday's pivotal return.
Scroll through to see what we came up with and give a thought or two of your own in the comments.
Series-Changing Video Review?
It was early. And the Lightning were reeling.
So when Colorado's Valeri Nichushkin beat Andrei Vasilevskiy with a softie five minutes after the opening faceoff, it didn't look good for those with three-peat wagers.
But it didn't last.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper chose to review the call based on a claim that Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram failed to keep the puck in the attacking zone at the blue line, thus warranting an offside call.
A no-goal for Nichushkin. Thoughts? 👀<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StanleyCup</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoBolts?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoBolts</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoAvsGo?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoAvsGo</a> <a href="https://t.co/mymJMRbPOr">pic.twitter.com/mymJMRbPOr</a>
A prolonged review had the 19,000-plus on edge, but the refs got it correct, declaring that the puck had just slipped out and pulling the tally off the scoreboard.
It was particularly important barely three minutes later when Landeskog's power-play goal would have given the visitors a 2-0 lead, but the Lightning weathered the storm and took the lead soon after when Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat scored at 13:03 and 14:54.
They never trailed again. And if the champs win Game 4 to get back in the series, Jared Bednar will see it in his nightmares.
Lightning's Core Players Step Up at Critical Juncture
There's a reason these guys have their names on the Stanley Cup.
After two games in which they were outshot by 29 and outscored by eight, the stars largely responsible for two boat parades in the nearby Hillsborough River—namely Vasilevskiy, Palat, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov—showed up.
Each of the four skaters contributed two points, accounting for two goals and six assists, while their perpetually heroic goaltender stopped all but two of 39 shots in rebounding from a career-worst performance in Game 2.
Landeskog's goal came via a goal-crease pileup in the initial half of the first period.
But Vasilevskiy was lights-out from then on and repeatedly flummoxed the Avalanche while his teammates scored five times on 22 shots against Darcy Kuemper and prompted a goalie change in the second.
If Vasilevskiy outplays the Colorado tandem to that extent, the needle will swing dramatically.
The Bolts Are Beat Up
It's the price you pay as two-time defending champs.
The Lightning have played a lot of hockey over the last three postseasons—65 games, to be exact—so it's hardly a shock that they've suffered injuries.
But at some point, it might just matter.
Center Brayden Point was out for a month between the end of the opening round and Wednesday's opener with Colorado and played nearly 35 minutes across Games 1 and 2, but he was unavailable for Game 3 with the same lower-body injury.
Winger Nicholas Paul was dinged up in the first period Monday and left the ice before returning to score early in the second to make it 3-1. He earned the game's third star after logging two shots and a takeaway in 13:43 of ice time.
Tampa Bay wouldn't be where it is again without a full complement of depth players to fill its holes, but the longer this series goes, the more impact the nicks will have.
Avs' Power Play Is Scary
It's Hockey 101.
Staying out of the penalty box maximizes a team's chances to win.
But when you're facing a juggernaut such as the Avalanche, it's mandatory.
A skilled, fast team, Colorado had the league's seventh-best power play during the regular season with a 24 percent success rate. But it has been even better in the playoffs, converting 33.9 percent of its chances.
The Avalanche had ramped things up to 42.9 percent in the first two games of the series, and both of their goals Monday came while a man up, too. So, if it seems like every time the Lightning take a penalty, the puck quickly winds up in their net, it's not entirely incorrect.
Bottom line, it can't continue if Tampa Bay is to win its third straight Cup. Because if it does, even Vasilevskiy won't be able to save them.
"You got to give them credit," Cooper said before Game 3. "They really jump out of the gate quick, but, as I told you, they did it in the regular season against us too. ... So, simplify our game, and please don't take a penalty."