Delay of game, slashing, tripping, holding, tripping.
When you’re up against the best team in the league, the best powerplay in the league, taking five penalties is going to give you a bad time.
We kick off the game with a few line changes to both sides. Colorado is taking a page out of Tampa Bay’s book, going with 11 forwards, and 7 defensemen. Nail Yakupov comes out of the lineup in exchange for Anton Lindholm on the back-end.
For the Lightning, Peter Budaj gets the start over Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has arguably been the best netminder in the league so far this season. The kid they call Vasy has the best save percentage among active starters so far this season with a .930 SV%.
Gabriel Landeskog scores within the first 90 seconds in his return from suspension. Nathan MacKinnon is able to poke the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, allowing Landeskog to drive to the net and pot home the backhand. great goal from the captain in his return to the team.
Not to be out-leadershipped, Steven Stamkos races and beats Nikita Zadorov to a puck that is heading toward Semyon Varlamov, dekes backhand, and squeaks the puck across the goal line.
EDIT: Turns out Stamkos roofed the puck so well that the rubber barely crossed the goal-line before bouncing back out. The fact that the puck then slid back into the net is just salt in the wound.
Carl Soderberg takes a delay of game penalty and the league’s best powerplay goes to work. Panic time? Not so fast. The Avalanche penalty killers are able to keep the Lightning forwards to the outside, and more importantly, out of the defensive zone. In fact, Blake Comeau is able to attempt a pretty good scoring chance from the heart of the slot. Unfortunatly, his shot goes wide.
Raw Charge writer, and Tampa Bay Lightning beat reporter Matthew Esteves, who is in attendance, had this to say about the Avalanche penalty kill/Lightning powerplay.
“Avs are following the trend of attacking the Bolts on the PP at the boards, which has caused a lot of trouble for the 1st unit. They are also rushing the point a lot, we’ll see if that trend works out for them. The area where things get dicey for any team defending the Lightning is when they start moving the puck around with hard, fast passes.”
Not too long after, Gabe Landeskog takes a slashing penalty, giving the Lightning yet another chance on the powerplay. Wunder-Sophomore Brayden Point is on the recieving end of a mesmerizing passing play. The shot goes just wide, but the goal-light goes on. I guess Point fooled the goal judge behind Varlamov’s net.
With the Lightning fourth-line on the ice and the Avs on their heels, Dan Girardi throws the puck towards the Avalanche net and... it goes in. After a second look, it appears as though Chris Kunitz tipped the puck while it was on its way to Varlamov.
The Lightning have clearly taken over the game in terms of puck possession and chances, with the Avalanche able to get together an occasional counter-attack chance. Varlamov and the defense bend but do not break, allowing their forwards to get some chances.
One of those chances lead to...
Erik Johnson and Sven Andrighetto are able to strip Slater Koekkoek of the puck at the blue-line and streak away on an odd-man break. Johnson, who is carries the puck into the zone, keeps, shoots five-hole and scroes! Definitely a soft goal against the Lightning’s back-up goalie but we’ll take it. Tie game!
The Lightning showed why they are the best team in the league, leading the period in shots (7-17), shot attempts (12-34), and scoring chances (7-17). Give the Avalanche credit, they’ve been able to clog up the middle of the ice, for the most part, and keep most of the chances to the outside and down-low. The shot-tips from point are definitely a concern that the defense needs to keep track of. Tie up those sticks!
Victor Hedman takes an early penalty, sending the Avalanche to their first man-advantage opportunity of the game. Despite the Lightning inexplicably sending two forwards on the forecheck, Sam Girard and Avs are able to get the puck into the offensive zone, and even get off a few scoring chances. The feisty Bolt penalty killers do a fustratingly good job at forcing our forwards to the outside, negating any dangerous chances.
The Lightning first line of Vladislav Namestnikov, Stamkos, and newcomer to the line, Tyler Johnson, have the puck in the Avalanche zone. They cycle the puck up high, then down low, then again up high before throwing the puck behind the net where Stamkos can set up Johnson for a shot in the slot. Varlamov stops him, but cannot stop Namestnikov, who buries the rebound.
Several minutes later, Colorado recieves its first goaltender penalty of the season, Semyon Varlamov going to the box (asking a teammate to sit in the box for him) for tripping penalty. The Avalanche remained strong throughout the man-disadvantage, killing off the two minutes with relative ease.
With a little over three minutes left in the frame, Mikhail Sergachev goes to the box for cross-checking. Similar to the Lightning chance earlier in the frame, the powerplay isn’t able to get anything going. The end of the powerplay flows into the end of the period, with not much happening in between.
Colorado does a much better job at keeping the game relatively even in this frame. The Lightning still lead in shots (9-10), shot attempts (10-16), and sccoring chances (9-13). The margins are much smaller in this frame, a testiment to the Avs’ hard work.
The Avalanche come out of the second intermission jumping, trying to tie the game at threes. They are able to notch four good scoring chances on Peter Budaj, but the old netminder seems to have finally found his game.
The Avalanche take yet another penalty, this time it’s Mikko Rantanen for holding the stick. This is the fourth penalty that the Avs have taken against the best powerplay team in the league. Not exactly a recipe for success.
And there it is. On the powerplay, Stamkos sets up Alex Killorn in the high slot for a one-timers, scoring his first powerplay goal of the season, and third in all situations. Once again, the Avs did a decent job of keeping the slot clear, but the quick puck movement of the Lightning has just been too much.
J.T. Compher uses his speed to seperate himself from Anton Stralman while chasing a puck. In all alone, Compher goes five-hole but is stopped by Budaj. Compher definitely gets his chances thanks to his strong acceleration, but the finishing leaves something to be desired.
The Avalanche are forced to have to kill one more penalty, Landeskog for tripping, killing more time off the clock, time that the Avalanche need to score not one, but two goals now. Thankfully, they kill it off with relative ease.
Five minutes left in the game, Stralman takes a penalty for hooking. This is our chance!
Apparently, head coach Jared Bednar agrees with me, as he pulls Varlamov shortly after the powerplay begins in a hope that the 6-on-4 advantage brings the Avs one step closer to tying the game.
With a little over three minutes remaining, the Lightnings’ Point clears the puck... right into the Avalanche net. That’s a short-handed, empty-net marker. There are still a few minutes left in the game, but with a three-goal deficit, this one seems out of reach.
At least Sven was able to make a new friend.
Give the Avalanche credit, they were able to keep up with the best team in the league for relatively large stretches of the game. Ultimately, penalties combined with the overwhelming depth of the Bolts are what buried Colorado in this one.
The Avalanche continue their four-game road trip against the Florida Panthers on Saturday. Puck drop is 5pm MT.