After being blown out 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 break.
They got both and rode that to a 6-2 victory that cut their deficit against the Colorado Avalanche to two games to one and showed why they are two-time defending champions. They ran their home winning 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 in Denver, winning 4-3 in overtime and 7-0. They appeared to get off to another quick start when red-hot Valeri Nichushkin scored. But that’s when the break happened.
The Lightning video crew, after a long examination, finally found a good angle and Lightning coach Jon Cooper challenged the goal. The NHL, after a long review, ruled that Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram had pulled the puck slightly out of the zone and the play was offside.
“It was long,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of the time that the Lightning got to make the challenge. “Probably three times the length we normally get.”
Though 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 in which everything went wrong, the Lightning had plenty go right in Game 3, though the game was marred by an injury to star Nikita Kucherov.
♦ Nick Paul, who appeared to be hurt in the first period, returned in the second period and put the Lightning ahead 3-1.
“In true hockey player fashion, he sucks it up and comes 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 assist.
♦ Cirelli (13 games) and Corey Perry (nine games) ended long goal-less droughts.
♦ Perry got the 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.
♦ Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy got back to form with 37 saves, including a big pad save early on J.T. Compher.
“He kept us in it every step of the way,” Lightning forward Pat Maroon said. “That’s why Vasy’s Vasy. He knows how to rebound. He knows how to come up big for us.”
The Lightning figured out a way to negate Colorado’s speed and will try to tie the series Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, ABC) at Amalie Arena.
Tampa Bay had trailed 2-0 in the Eastern Conference final before winning four in a row against the New York Rangers.
“We knew this was pretty much a must-win game for us,” Stamkos said. “I think we played like it tonight. I think our attention to detail was a lot better.”
Nikita Kucherov leaves game after check
Kucherov had two assists but left the game after being cross-checked by Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews in the third period. Cooper said he’d have an update on Kucherov on Tuesday.
“It’s a contact game, but guys know what they’re doing,” Cooper said of the play. “Smart, savvy players know what they’re doing with their stick. We all saw it.”
Two key players didn’t dress for Game 3 because of injury: Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky and Lightning forward Brayden Point.
Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper pulled after fifth goal
Bednar pulled goalie Darcy Kuemper after he gave up five goals on 22 shots. Pavel Francouz gave up the final Lightning goal.
“He didn’t have a good night,” Bednar said of Kuemper. “Neither did our team. We win as a team, lose as a team. We group him in with everyone else.”
The Avalanche have used both goalies in the playoffs, mostly because of injuries to Kuemper. Bednar, as expected, didn’t indicate who’d start in Game 4.
NHL awards show on Tuesday
The NHL will announce its remaining award winners Tuesday night during an awards show (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). Still left to be announced: Hart Trophy (MVP, writers vote), Ted Lindsay Award (MVP, players vote), Norris Trophy (defenseman), Vezina Trophy (goaltender) and Calder Trophy (rookie).
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