The Colorado Avalanche and Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning were in for a good Saturday night duel, which saw it go beyond the extra frame. The Avs would eventually win in the shootout 3-2 and win the game 4-3.
Mikko Rantanen was looking to extend his four-game point streak with the support of his teammates, who were still looking to get back on track after a shaky first four games. He would do that thanks to a beautiful play by Nathan MacKinnon and move his point streak up to five games.
It was a topsy turvy matchup from the get-go with these two Stanley Cup contenders. While a long ways away, this could be a potential Stanley Cup Final matchup, with the good guys getting the advantage tonight.
The Avs were given a couple of early power plays but could not get anything really set up. MacKinnon had the best chance during the first power play when he walked in on Andrei Vasilevskiy but was denied at the front of the net.
There was no real flow to the game up to this point with plenty of stoppages. Nonetheless, the Avs had the better chances up to this point, especially with the fourth line rolling early on.
Bowen Byram would send one into the zone, which found its way to MacKinnon who stuffed it in front for Gabriel Landeskog. He put it past the Lightning’s netminder for his second of the season and a 1-0 lead at 9:02 of the first period.
After the Avs handed Tampa a couple of power plays of their own, Darcy Kuemper held strong when called upon, and kept Tampa scoreless in the first period, just as they have been so far this season.
After yet another power play for the Avs was killed off early, there were chances for Rantanen on the breakaway and former Avalanche favorite Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare on an empty net that were both stopped respectively.
Kuemper would be beat, however, on a broken play. A bouncing puck was deflected by Mathieu Joseph to draw the Lightning level at one.
Another power play for the Avs would be killed off, but soon after MacKinnon had a perfect 2-on-1 opportunity and fed it to Rantanen who slotted it home past Vasilevskiy for the 2-1 advantage.
Tampa would turn up their level of play, asking a lot of Kuemper who stood tall, including a big save when there was a brief 2-on-0 in front of him. Things would not end quietly in this period, however.
Rantanen threw a big open ice hit on Joseph that ended with knee-on-knee contact and looked ugly with under a minute to go. Rantanen was jumped and there were penalties assessed to himself and Alex Killorn that would carry over to the start of the third.
With the Avs looking to hold on to their one goal advantage in the frame, they weren’t successful. Steven Stamkos parked himself in front after a big save by Kuemper and put it into an empty net to bring the Lightning level at two.
It was a battle from here on out, especially with Tampa Bay having almost all of the momentum. This would shift, however, when Vasilevskiy of all people committed a tripping penalty. MacKinnon would break through with his first goal of the season from his usual spot on the power play to give the Avs their third one-goal lead of the night 3-2.
Physicality was on the rise, as Andre Burakovsky took a couple of big hits, and Rantanen fell awkwardly on his face in the corner that left him bleeding on the bridge of his nose. Tampa would bring everything they could at the Avs in the final five minutes.
Kuemper made a massive goal-line save with his stick with 4:13 left in hope that that would be the difference maker. It would not be, as Brayden Point would score with the extra attacker on with 2:35 left for yet another tie, this time at three and sent it to the extra frame.
In the crucial OT period where possession is everything, the Avs won it but gave it to Tampa almost immediately. They would get it back and MacKinnon would get robbed by Vasilevskiy. Each team got several chances that either missed the net or were stopped by each goaltender.
Girard would be hurt on a big hit by Stamkos who went in head-first and crunched into the boards, and it was a missed penalty. The deadlock would not be broken, as we headed to a shootout after a wild overtime period.
1st Round TBL: Hedman scores
1st Round COL: MacKinnon saved by Vasilevskiy
2nd Round TBL: Point saved by Kuemper
2nd Round COL: Rantanen scores off post and off Vasilevskiy
3rd Round TBL: Colton missed the net
3rd Round COL: Burakovsky saved by Vasilevskiy
4th Round TBL: Stamkos scores
4th Round COL: Landeskog scores
5th Round TBL: Perry saved by Kuemper
5th Round COL: Kadri saved by Vasilevskiy
6th Round TBL: Cirelli saved by Kuemper
6th Round COL: Makar scores to win it for the Avalanche
Logan O’Connor had a phenomenal game, throwing himself around and making himself known. While he didn’t get on the scoresheet, he is making himself known and only cementing his place in this team further.
Kuemper looked like he’s settled in, by far having his best game in an Avs sweater. He made some big saves along the way en route to the extra frame and shootout. With the help of the night off Thursday night, he was dominant in the back and earned the win tonight.
The defense was better tonight, including the new pairing of Makar-Byram. Both looked solid together, with Byram really coming into his own so far in this young season. Makar looked much more improved, and scored on his first shootout attempt to win it for the Avs.
A glaring problem the Avs are still facing, however, has to be the power play. They went 1-for-6 with the man advantage tonight and at points could not even get set up in the zone for an opportunity. This is something that has been an issue now for a while and needs to be addressed and fixed by Jared Bednar.
The Avs head home for just one game, but against the mighty Vegas Golden Knights. Puck drop is 6 p.m. MT on Tuesday.