The Tampa Bay Lightning have made a habit of sticking around in playoff series over the past three years, even when they fall behind early. That pattern continued on Monday night as the Lightning beat the Avalanche 6-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Tampa Bay won at home to grab its first win of the series, which Colorado now leads two games to one.
Lightning show resilience yet again
The Avalanche remain the series favorite, with FanDuel Sportsbook rating Colorado as a -300 pick to win the Stanley Cup. However, Tampa Bay (+240) showed remarkable resilience in avoiding falling into a 3-0 hole.
“There’s a reason why we’re here and there’s a reason why we won tonight,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters after the win. “There’s a reason why this has gone on for the last couple of years.”
Colorado nearly opened the scoring early in Game 3 as Avalanche winger Valeri Nichuskin appeared to score in the first period. Tampa Bay decided to challenge the call. After a long review, officials determined that Colorado defenseman Bowen Byram moved the puck outside the offensive zone, meaning the play was offside.
“That’s how close it was,” Cooper said, addressing the long delay in his decision to challenge, as well as the lengthy review itself. “I don’t know how many angles they looked at, but it must have been a bunch for it to take that long. At the very end, an angle came in. It was an end-zone angle and I don’t know where we got it from. The guys inside couldn’t tell if it was white or if it was grainy. And I said, ‘Well, let’s go with the white.’”
The outstanding power-play unit for the Avalanche scored soon thereafter anyway, with Gabriel Landeskog giving Colorado a 1-0 lead. The Lightning scored the next three goals.
Landeskog again scored on the power play in the second period to cut the deficit to one, but that was the closest the Avalanche would get. The Lightning scored three more unanswered goals in the second period to close out the scoring in Game 3.
Kuemper struggles for Colorado in Game 3
Colorado pulled goaltender Darcy Kuemper after the fifth Lightning goal. The Avalanche are now mum on who will get the start in net for Game 4.
“He didn’t have a good night,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of Kuemper, who gave up five goals on 22 shots. “Neither did our team. We win as a team, lose as a team. Group him in with everybody else. Just wasn’t as good as we needed to be.”
Pavel Francouz closed out Game 3 for Colorado, making nine saves on 10 shots.
On the other hand, Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy rebounded well from his poor performance in Game 2, stopping 37 of 39 shots in Monday’s win.
“For him to go through what he went through two nights ago and then perform like he did tonight … not only that, but to have them score first and then have the team to respond and back him up, I guess that’s how you get to the places that we’ve been.”