All day, the Colorado Avalanche’s meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning was being promoted as a litmus test — a measuring stick game — for the Avs. Colorado entered the night with the top goal-differential in the Western Conference; Tampa Bay had the top goal-differential in the East (and the league).
While one could say Colorado failed its litmus test. One could also just forget the game ever happened.
It was pretty bad.
The Lightning outclassed the Avalanche from start to finish, as the home team beat Colorado 7-1, dominating all facets of the game.
Tampa Bay’s passing was surgical: a cross-seam feed from Nikita Kucherov to Steven Stamkos on the power play, a tic-tac-toe sequence from Stamkos, to Yanni Gourde, to Alex Killorn, a back-door find by Stamkos to Ondrej Palat. It was simply too much.
The Lightning put on a world-class offensive display that likely would have buried any team in the league, but certainly the Avalanche tonight. Colorado looked slow and uncoordinated, perhaps showing the wearings of a four-game east-coast trip which included 15 goals against in the last three games.
Stamkos had four points, including his 11th and 12th goals of the season, to move the veteran sniper past Carl Soderberg on the league-ranks this year. (We at Mile High Hockey sincerely apologize for this tweet on Thursday night). [Editor’s note: We do not apologize for anything].
After the 2008 first overall draft pick put the Lightning up 2-0, the 2013 first-overall draft pick pulled the Avalanche within 2-1.
Nathan MacKinnon finished off the play with a nasty five-hole wrist shot on Louis Domingue, assisted by Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Domingue had entered the game with a sub-par .903 save percentage this season and he looked slow to react to MacKinnon’s goal, so — at the time — it seemed like it may have been the start of a Colorado offensive rally, especially given the team’s success in the second and third periods this season.
But kudos to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who played the best and most complete game by any Avalanche opponent this season. Tampa Bay is the standard for elite hockey in the NHL right now and on Saturday night, Colorado was unable to match their level of play.
- With an assist on the MacKinnon goal, Mikko Rantanen extended his point streak to 11 games. Columbus winger Cam Atkinson’s 12-game streak was snapped on Saturday night, so Rantanen and Alex Ovechkin currently are tied for the longest scoring streaks in the NHL. Always look on the bright side of life?
- Ian Cole was on the ice for six goals against tonight. Woof.
- The Lightning played a really physical hockey game tonight. The Altitude crew was discussing how they were trying to reinvent their team’s identity after losing to a hard-hitting Washington Capitals team in the playoffs last season. It showed. Cedric Paquette in particular was a force for Tampa Bay, even if the way he finished a couple of checks on Alex Kerfoot late in the third period (in a 7-1 game, mind you) might not have really been warranted.
- The Avalanche’s road record drops to 11-6-2 after a 2-2-0 road trip. Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh are never easy places to play, so it’s understandable that Colorado dropped a couple there. They now have a 11/19 road/home games played split this season. The upcoming schedule has a lot of games in Denver, and that should be to the team’s benefit.
- Semyon Varlamov was pulled from the game early, but it wasn’t really indicative of his play. Tampa Bay dominated chances throughout and there wasn’t a lot the Russian goaltender could do. It’s the first time this season that Colorado has switched netminders midway through a game.
- Vladislav Kamenev left the game early with a right wrist injury. That’s not the arm he broke last season.