The Colorado Avalanche took home a 4-3 OT win Wednesday in Game 1 at Denver’s Ball Arena, with André Burakovsky scoring a jawdropping snapshot against Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Following a stellar first period for the Avs where they led 3-1 with two goals being scored in the first 10 minutes of the game by captain Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin, the Bolts caught up in the second period in quick succession with a two-man effort from Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev. Scoring one minute apart to push the Lightning to a 3-3 tie by the third period. The Avs shone through in their defense and relentless scoring chances which tore apart the Lightning offense. With speed and shot risks, the Avalanche nearly overwhelmed the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion.
The Avalanche also capitalized on an early game weakness of Vasilevskiy in which he let in his first five-hole goal in the postseason. Letting the first 3 Avalanche goals between the legs, a clear weakness was determined. The goaltender saw his four-game win streak come to an end in Game 1. He made 34 saves on 38 shots, the second-most shots he faced in the postseason since Game 4 of Round 2 against the Florida Panthers. However, the Vezina and Conn Smythe winning goaltender has had demoralizing Game 1 performances before. An example being Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers, in which he let in 6 goals to 2, while returning to his usual strength in the later games, showing that the Avalanche are not yet out of the woods when it comes to the Russian superstar goaltender.
The Bolts have yet to defeat Colorado this season, losing all three games with them in the regular and postseason combined. This proves to be a strong advantage to Colorado. However, Tampa Bay has a trick up their sleeves. With the return of Brayden Point who has been out due to a lower-body injury since Game 7 of the first round with the Toronto Maple Leafs, things are looking up for Tampa with Point marking his return with an assist for his third assist and fifth point of the postseason. Brayden Point, being a huge scorer for Tampa in the last postseason, is a key player in the Lightning’s success. With him back on the ice, the Bolts have a increased chance of success.
The Lightning will capitalize on their stellar top line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov who is the third Russian in NHL history to record 100 assists and 150 points in the playoffs along with Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Federov. Kucherov recorded his 151st playoff career in point in Game 1 to break the tie with Stan Mikita and move up the rankings to be 29th in the NHL’s all-time playoff scoring leaders.
Both teams have stellar players, goalies, and coaches to use to their advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Final. Despite this, it is only up to whichever team has the most determination and skill to win in order to take the cup home this year.
Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Lightning and Avalanche will take place Saturday, June 18th at 8 P.M. EST from Denver’s Ball Arena.