The consecutive Stanley Cup champions were overwhelmed in a 7-0 loss in Game 2 at Ball Arena in Denver on Saturday, and were down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series.
“That showing the last game did not sit well with anyone in that locker room,” forward antonio cirelli said. “We knew we had to come out strong and have a great recovery game. I thought that’s what we did.”
But Game 3, and perhaps the series, focused as much on intuition as it did on guts, on luck and execution, and showed how fragile confidence can be even for proven winners at the highest level.
The Lightning fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 in the first period of Game 1, then lost 4-3 in overtime. They fell behind 3-0 in the first period of Game 2 and were eliminated.
Five minutes into the first period of Game 3, Avalanche ahead Valeri Nichushkin appeared to put Rayo behind 1-0. Suddenly, Lightning’s trainer, Jon Cooper, had to make a big decision.
Tampa Bay video coaches thought the play was offside, but his replay angle was from the end zone and unclear. Was there a blank space between the disk and the blue line? Should Cooper challenge?
If Cooper challenged and video review confirmed the goal, the Lightning would receive a delay of game penalty, put the Avalanche’s dominant power play on the ice and risk digging a 2-0 hole.
Cooper went with instinct.
“I don’t fully know how it all works, but from the end zone angle, the guys inside were like, ‘I can’t tell if it’s white or if it’s grainy,'” Cooper said. “I’m like, ‘Okay, let’s go white.’ And it turned out to be offside.”
Rayo fell behind 1-0, however, when ahead gabriel landeskog he scored on the power play at 8:19. At that point, the Avalanche had scored nine straight goals since winning overtime in Game 1.
But then Cirelli made an incredible play by kicking the puck towards his post on the run. He cut the goalkeeper darcy kumper Y …
“I lost it,” Cirelli said.
Cirelli never actually shot the puck. But Kuemper was fooled, the puck slid past him and the game was tied 1-1 at 13:03.
then go ahead Palate of Ondrej ended a give and take with the center Steven Stammos at 2:54 p.m., and the Lightning led 2-1, their first lead of the series.
How key was that? Well, each team entered the game 6-1 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they were leading after the first period.
“I think that fixed everything,” Cooper said. “It’s not like our team was panicking or anything like that. It just gave you a little bit of, like, exhale. ‘Okay, we have one.’ …
“The response from the group was outstanding, what we needed, and then the puck started coming into the net for us. So sometimes you need that break, that goal. We got it and took off from there.”
The Lightning took a 5-2 lead, chased down Kuemper and extended it to 6-2 later in the second.
Game over. The Lightning cut the Avalanche’s series lead to 2-1. Game 4 is here on Wednesday (8 pm ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).
It’s easy to say that this is what Lightning does.
True, the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated them 5-0 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round and rallied to win 5-3 in Game 2, who were down 3-2 in that series and won in seven games. .
True, they lost the first two games to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals and were down 2-0 in Game 3, coming back to win that series in six.
It’s true that Stamkos had this to say after the 7-0 Game 2 loss on Saturday: “You’ve got to keep going, be a man as a team, as a person. Our team is going to do that. Let’s go home in front of our fans.” And let’s see what we’re made of.”
But even the Lightning, for all their champion value, have to breathe and believe.
“The first two games, we were down early in the game,” Stamkos said. “We were chasing, and it feels like you’re just chasing the puck the whole game. When you have the lead, you’re more confident as a group. You see some plays start to go in your favor, and all of a sudden, you put your feet under you, and it’s almost like you feel lighter out there.
“It was a much better start to the game that gave our group some confidence, and when you start to feel so good, you start to see the results, and everything seems to go in your favor. I think that was the difference in the beginning.” in.”
We’ll see. That could be the difference between a short series and a long one.