Lightning's Jon Cooper: 'Heart Breaks' for TB Players After Game 4 Loss vs. Avalanche

Adam WellsJune 23, 2022

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JUNE 22: Corey Perry #10 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and teammates react after losing to the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in overtime in Game Four of the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 22, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was emotional after his team's controversial 3-2 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday.

Cooper only answered one question during the postgame press conference, telling reporters his "heart breaks" for his players because of how the game ended:

Sportsnet @Sportsnet

"You’re gonna see what I mean when you see the winning goal. My heart breaks for the players because we probably still should be playing.” <br><br>Jon Cooper only took one question post-game, and was clearly not happy about the Avalanche's OT winning goal. <a href="https://t.co/g6DAwp475i">pic.twitter.com/g6DAwp475i</a>

Prior to Nazem Kadri's game-winning goal, there was some confusion that the Avs may have had too many men on the ice. Nathan MacKinnon was being subbed out for Kadri, but it took him more than five seconds to get to the bench.

At the same time, it also appeared the Lightning had an extra man on the ice when the substitutions were happening:

CJ Fogler AKA Perc70 #BlackLivesMatter @cjzero

As a couple people pointed out, if Cooper wants too many men here it's going to be difficult to argue with 7 Lightning players having feet on the ice <a href="https://t.co/MfwTr7nuzN">https://t.co/MfwTr7nuzN</a>

The official game sheet from the NHL showed six Colorado players were on the ice when the game-winning goal was scored:

Mike Stephens @mikeystephens81

Game sheet says there were six Avalanche players on the ice when Kadri’s OT winner was scored. <a href="https://t.co/kufhJ8X0hm">pic.twitter.com/kufhJ8X0hm</a>

NHL Hockey Operations issued a statement after the game about the controversy.

"A too many men on the ice penalty is a judgment call that can be made by any of the four on-ice officials," the statement read (via NHL.com's Mike Zeisberger). "Following the game, Hockey Operations met with the four officials as is their normal protocol. In discussing the winning goal, each of the four officials advised that they did not see a too many men on the ice situation on the play."

There was a similar situation that the Lightning benefited from in last year's playoffs. Yanni Gourde scored a shorthanded goal in Game 7 of the semifinal that wound up being the difference in a 1-0 win over the New York Islanders.

Andrew Gross of Newsday noted that an image was circulated that appeared to show Tampa Bay had five skaters on the ice. Barclay Goodrow was serving a two-minute penalty for cross-checking at the time.

No one on the Islanders was asked about the situation. The Lightning then went on to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final by defeating the Montreal Canadiens.

Wednesday's loss put the Lightning on the brink of defeat, facing a 3-1 series deficit heading back to Ball Arena for Game 5.

The only team to erase a 3-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final was the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942. They dropped the first three games of their series to the Detroit Red Wings before winning four straight.

The Lightning and Avs will play Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Friday at 8 p.m. ET.