After the less than stellar game in Florida just last week the Tampa Bay Lightning visited the Colorado Avalanche for round two of the Stanley Cup Finals rematch. While this game was much more entertaining and competitive, the Avalanche still let the game get away from them in the third period which resulted in a 4-3 loss in a shootout.
It was exactly the start the home team needed when a fantastic shot from Artturi Lehkonen just 50 seconds into the game found the back of the net. The rest of the first period was a back-and-forth affair with the Avalanche holding a 17-16 shot advantage despite Tampa Bay earning the only power play. While both teams got their chances the game also had a tactical feel with a lot of counterattacking and careful clears.
In the second period the Avalanche started to take control of the game and scored a beautiful second goal as Bowen Byram danced around the offensive zone and then fed a waiting Nathan MacKinnon perfectly at the net front at 6:21. Nikita Kucherov would get the Lightning on the board at 13:09 but the Avalanche held the 2-1 lead after 40 minutes of play.
The third frame looked eerily similar to several other recent games with a poor start right off the hop which led to a blown lead after just 26 seconds when Anthony Cirelli tied the game. It should have been over, though, at 2:10 into the period when Denis Malgin scored his first goal in burgundy and blue on a great shot just jumping on the ice off of the bench. That type of tertiary scoring is what the Avalanche have lacked to put games away this season and was their first third period goal scored on a goalie in nine games. However, they couldn’t hold even the lead for two minutes as old friend Vladislav Namenstinkov took advantage of a turnover in the Avalanche defensive zone and capitalized at 4:10.
Luckily the Avalanche held on through the rest of the period which included a penalty kill to get the game into overtime and earned a critical point in the standings. However, overtime was a complete eyesore with blind passes that were picked off and should have resulted in a Lightning goal. But this marathon game went even longer into a shootout where Steven Stamkos beat Alexandar Georgiev on the first shot and that was all that was needed to earn the 4-3 Tampa Bay victory.
The one star for the Avalanche this evening was Bowen Byram, who was also named third star in this losing effort. He was very active in the offensive zone as evidenced by his assist but several other big plays for scoring chances and once again shouldered a large load defensively playing over 24 minutes and had a huge block on the penalty kill. Hopefully his play can continue to spark the team through this critical stretch.
Alex Newhook was really buzzing early in this game creating numerous chances and was a hound around the puck but only saw roughly 13 minutes of time on ice plus none in overtime and in the shootout. With the lack of skill in the lineup right now he could get a bit more opportunity especially when he started the game so well.
As the injury carousel keeps spinning, Jared Bednar revealed after the game Erik Johnson is expected to miss weeks. There was some good news that Josh Manson might return tomorrow for the game in Minnesota. Cale Makar is also progressing but not expected to return just yet. Ben Meyers who played just under five minutes was sent back to the Colorado Eagles after the game ending the 12 forwards experiment.
A quick turnaround for the Avalanche who complete the first of several back-to-back stretches this month as they depart immediately to face the Minnesota Wild for a key Central Division showdown tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. MT on TNT.