The Colorado Avalanche hit the ice with rookie Sami Aittokallio minding the net. Having only a couple of periods of NHL experience, you would think the team would do all they could to give him a chance to ease into the game. Of course, that's not what happened. Just like the last time he started for the Avs, Sami had to defend against not just one, but two power plays within the first minutes of the game. However, unlike last time, he stood tall and kept the Tampa Bay Lightning off the board.
The Avs got their own chance a man up as John Mitchell was cross-checked hard into the boards, clearly hurt as he lay there for a while, holding his arm. He made it back to the bench, fortunately, and returned to the ice later on. Sadly, the Avs did as much with the PP opportunity as the Lightning did before them.
Fast and furious play at both ends of the ice generated some highlight reel saves (including one by Maxime Talbot...again). In the Avs' last even strength rush of the period, Nathan MacKinnon's magic drew a holding penalty and allowed Colorado to finish out the first frame on the power play. Despite the advantage, the teams went into the first intermission scoreless.
The Avs started the second with 24 power play seconds left. The time was spent passing the puck around the d-zone. Apparently, that wasn't satisfactory as the team decided to draw yet another penalty in hopes of converting on this, their third, try. While it didn't net any goals, the heavy possession created some energy and the Avs put some pressure on Tampa, getting some good chances down low.
After a crazy four or five minutes in which the Avalanche had all the momentum and all the chances, a bad bounce sent the play the other way. While the team had numbers coming back to stop the play, no one picked up Victor Hedman who put a shot on net. The rebound came out in front of Tyler Johnson, and he battled to chip the puck in the net. One to zero, Lightning.
About a minute later, Aittokallio made an initial stop on a shot by Mark Barberio from high in the slot but couldn't smother it. The puck trickled in behind him, and Tampa took a two to nothing lead. At this point, the young Finn manning Colorado's net was clearly shaken and seemed to struggle with each shot he faced.
Gabriel Landeskog got the best chance of the night thus far for the Avs with eight minutes left in the second period. He had Ben Bishop beat, but the puck clanged off the cross bar.
As the final minutes ticked off, one would hope Colorado's best players would take control of the game and turn the tide. Unfortunately, with every rush the Avs started, Tampa had an answer. Then a long pass from Bishop ended up in a tic tac toe through the Avs' zone, finally bouncing off on Valtteri Filppula's leg. The puck slid under Aittokallio's pad and gave the Lightning a 3-0 lead.
With 1:27 left to go in the period, John Mitchell finally got one past Bishop. Tyson Barrie sent the puck along the blueline over to Landy, who moved to the top of the right face off circle. A heavy slap shot sent the puck on net, and Mitchell got a tip on it to put the Avs within two of the Lightning. Then Barrie got one just 30 seconds later. The Avs worked hard with a flurry of activity in front of Bishop when Barrie pinched down into the slot, gobbled up a bouncing puck, and sent a quick wrister home. The period ended a one-goal game thanks to a profitable shift that saw goal and assist by Barrie and a goal by Mitchell.
Roy made a change in net for the third, replacing Sami with Semyon Varlamov. He didn't waste time to be the spider ninja monkey that he is, stopping two solid bids with a flash of the pad. Most of the period didn't have the moments of the prior two periods, with Tampa doing a good job of holding the Avs up at the blueline and turning the play back the other direction. Finally, it paid off for the Lightning as Johnson got his second of the night to put them back up by two. Didn't take them much more time to get the three goal lead back with Johnson grabbing the hat trick, his first ever in the NHL.
For the final two minutes of the game, Erik Johnson sat in the penalty box after an errant stick clipped Eric Brewer. A tired penalty killing unit hung in there, and the game ended 5-2 in favor of Tampa.
Tyson Barrie - goal and assist
John Mitchell - goal
Matt Duchene - 64% face off, team-high 5 shots