“Let’s go streaking again!” Devon Toews said after earning first star of the night in his postgame interview.
His Colorado Avalanche defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 thanks to early offense and all around goaltending. Darcy Kuemper was phenomenal, going toe-to-toe with Andrei Vasilevskiy and consistently matching him with 36 saves.
These two powerhouse clubs came to fight, but only the Avs showed up first. Gabriel Landeskog tipped in a shot from the point from Mikko Rantanen to grab the early 1-0 lead.
Devon Toews also had a phenomenal chance all by himself at the near circle that sounded like caught iron. But he wouldn’t be denied a second time, as a 4-on-4 expired, he received a pass right in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy from Nazem Kadri to stuff it home and double the advantage.
Of course though, the Lightning are too good of a team to put away early. It would take a beautiful passing play from Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov to fool Kuemper and Kucherov put it into an empty net to cut the lead in half.
The Avs continued to throw a lot offensively towards Vasilevskiy and tried to get the two-goal lead back before going into the break. While they couldn’t do so, they were by far the better team, giving it to the Bolts in the shots column. The Avs lead that category 24-11, recording the most shots on goal in a period this season and looking for more later on.
After penalties from Jaan Rutta and Kadri respectively, Valeri Nichushkin found himself flying into the zone on a 2-on-1 and sniped it past the blocker of Vasilevskiy. It was looking like it was the Avs’s night, as they were now up 3-1.
They looked to have maybe added another as the puck nearly crossed the goal line after Vasilevskiy almost kicked it into his own net. It looked to have maybe been across the line through the mesh of his glove in the net cam, but eventually after review there was no goal.
Regardless, this period was oozing with talent. Each team got so many quality chances, playing like the true Stanley Cup contenders they are and giving the fans a treat to watch. The goaltenders in particular were phenomenal, each making save after save matching the other.
Eventually, a Vasilevskiy save proved critical as after his save Point received a stretch pass to get between the Avs defenders, got Kuemper to bite and beat him up high to make it a one goal game heading into a pivotal third period.
The third period started with the Lightning controlling the play. This included Victor Hedman controlling the head of Landeskog, smashing it into the boards in a scrum behind the net where no penalty was called. Hedman did end up on the receiving end of a big Kadri hit though seconds later.
After a 4-on-4 was completed, neither team was giving an inch. They both knew the implications of this game, playing to their highest potential. It was an immovable object against an unstoppable force, just a matter of who would break first.
With Tampa pulling Vasilevskiy with 3:13 left, the same group of Avs stayed out for nearly three minutes and hung on to beat out the Lightning for the second and final time this season.
The story of the game had to be the goaltending duel between Vasilevskiy and Kuemper. Both were phenomenal, matching the other time and time again. Vasilevskiy was a major component of keeping the Bolts close when they were getting outplayed in the first half of the game. Kuemper would eventually come out on top, helping sweep the season series over the two-time Stanley Cup champions.
Kadri continued his dominance, as he’s now on a six game point streak (seven games if you want to count the All-Star Game!) He tacked on an assist tonight on the second goal of the night and played angry tonight after having penalty trouble all night long. He was just one part of a talent-filled hockey game and continued to prove why he was an All-Star this past weekend.
Joe Sakic joined the Altitude TV booth to start the second period and held a press conference an hour before the game as well. In the booth while speaking with Marc Moser, he said that with five weeks left until the trade deadline anything can happen. He mentioned the worry that things may change in five weeks to determine the direction the Avs go in. We already know they have eyes on Joe Pavelski, Claude Giroux and Phil Kessel to start. It’s just a matter of what goes on in the next five weeks, but implicitly said that it’ll be later rather than sooner that any trade will occur with the Avalanche in it.