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Electric response: Lightning clobber Avalanche in Game 3

Should we be surprised that the Tampa bay Lightning responded to a tough start to the 2022 Stanley Cup Final by beating the Colorado Avalanche handily in Game 3?

The answer might be “Yes and No.”

Either way, the Lightning won Game 3 by a resounding 6-2 score, reducing the Avalanche’s series lead to 2-1.

Clearly, the Lightning aim for a Stanley Cup three-peat for a reason. This championship team keeps finding ways to respond to tough situations. They were down 2-0 and looking shaky as recently as the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers. They didn’t flinch.

Yet, with the way the Avalanche thumped the Lightning in Game 2, some wondered if the Cup Final might be short and not-so-sweet for Tampa Bay. Instead, it seems like we may get the battle many hoped for.

Lightning generate 2-1 lead over Avalanche through first period of Game 3

Coming into Game 3, I couldn’t help but wonder: maybe the Lightning need to score the first goal to really slow down the Avalanche?

Hmm, nope.

Throughout the first 20 minutes, things were more even. After creating basically nothing in Game 2, the Lightning looked much better than the Avalanche (then Tampa Bay ran away with Game 3). For instance: despite trailing for basically all of Game 2, the Bolts only managed 16 shots on goal. During the first period of Game 3, the Avalanche fired more shots on goal (14), but the Lightning were close (12).

Of course, the most important scoreboard consideration went Tampa Bay’s way.

First, it seemed like Valeri Nichushkin scored yet another goal. Instead, it was nullified by an offside goal review.

(Honestly, that seemed like the right call, but it was close.)

Credit the young Avs with shaking that off. After a failed Lightning power play, the Avalanche scored on their own man advantage.

Then the repeat defending champions struck twice in quick succession.

Much has been made about Anthony Cirelli’s defensive work. At times, he’s been a black hole of all offense when on the ice as far as actual goals go. That’s been more than good enough as he’s slowed or even nullified some true stars during the playoffs.

Yet, it’s not as though Cirelli and his line haven’t attempted to create offense. They just haven’t received many bounces.

Keep hammering away, though, and eventually you’re likely to “make your own luck.” That happened when a great Cirelli push to the net resulted in a funky goal.

Less than two minutes later, we saw an example of the Avs’ brave defensive passing sometimes having its drawbacks. Devon Toews’ pass was just a bit off to Cale Makar, setting up a Bolts counter. Yet again, top Tampa Bay scorers put together some great weaving body and puck movement.

It’s often been Nikita Kucherov running the show. In this case, Ondrej Palat and Steven Stamkos combined for a give-and-go beauty.

Second period: more injuries to watch, Bolts chase Kuemper

Game 3 of the Cup Final added injury situations to watch. Nicholas Paul found himself in and out of the locker room dealing with what appears to be a lower-body issue. Corey Perry was shaken up after awkwardly tangling with Josh Manson.

Even at far from 100%, Paul scored a helpful 3-1 goal. It would be part of a busy second period.

After the Lightning went up 3-1, Gabriel Landeskog scored his second power-play goal of Game 3 for the Avalanche. Once again, the Avs beat Andrei Vasilevskiy high on the blocker side. (Maybe that’s just one of those goals that just happens; perhaps it’s something to watch.)

In Game 2, Darcy Kuemper cruised to a 16-save shutout. The Lightning would not make life so easy for Kuemper in Game 3.

To restore a two-goal lead, Steven Stamkos snuck to a high-danger area to score a nice 4-2 tally. No surprise that Nikita Kucherov factored into the offense with two assists in the middle frame.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

How much was any of this on Darcy Kuemper? It’s tough to say. Either way, once Pat Maroon scored on a little backhand move, the Avalanche replaced Kuemper with Pavel Francouz.

Truly, Kuemper’s looked shaky at times, particularly since being injured and missing time. It’s not totally certain if Kuemper is the Avalanche’s best option compared to Francouz. Neither, of course, inspire the same level of trust as Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Some second-period saves from Vasilevskiy helped Tampa Bay truly control a game that could’ve been a closer “track meet.”

Quite a rebound by Lightning in Game 3

Was this contest as lopsided as the score? You could argue that Game 2 was as close to a 7-0 contest as Lightning - Avalanche would get. Through 40, it wasn’t overwhelmingly clear that this was 6-2-level dominance.

But the Lightning absolutely punished the Avalanche in key ways during Game 3. This collection of stats captures some of that feeling.

We saw glimpses of Colorado’s speed, but controlling high-danger chances indeed seemed like the recipe for Tampa Bay.

Add Nikita Kucherov to list of Stanley Cup Final injuries to watch?

While the Avs made some third-period pushes, Vasilevskiy and the Lightning didn’t let them back in. Some of the most notable developments may have been some of the hits.

The exchanges most likely to make an impact involved Nikita Kucherov.

First, Kucherov caught Josh Manson with a dangerous-looking hit. Soon after, Kucherov received a hit from Devon Toews and came up gingerly.

No doubt, the injures are stacking up for both the Avalanche and Lightning as the Stanley Cup Final wages on.

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Stanley Cup Final


Game 1 - Avalanche 4, Lightning 3 (OT)
Game 2 - Avalanche 7, Lightning 0
Game 3 - Lightning 6, Avalanche 2
Game 4 - June 22: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 5 - June 24: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 6 - June 26: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 7 - June 28: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)

* - if necessary