Some teams may get nervous after losing Game 1 of a series. The Tampa Bay Lightning take it all in stride.
Tampa Bay dropped the opener of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, which put it in a familiar position. The Lightning also lost the first game of their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers before eventually prevailing.
While the Maple Leafs and Rangers are formidable opponents, the Colorado Avalanche are at another level. Colorado’s sheer volume of shots had the Lightning scrambling at times, but they vow to be better in Game 2 Saturday night in Denver.
“It’s about winning the series, it’s not about winning Game 1,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “Yeah, would we like to win every single game? There’s no question. But we’ve also started out on the road for all four series, so the fact that we’ve won one of them is kind of a bonus on our side. But it’s about winning the series.”
Colorado finished second in the NHL with 119 points and stormed through the Western Conference to reach the final, then showed why it is the favorite to win it all in Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime win over Tampa Bay.
The Avalanche threw 79 shots at goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Thirty-eight of them were on net and 25 were blocked.
Colorado showed little rust after an eight-day break that followed its sweep of Edmonton in the Western Conference final. Except for a 48-second span when the Lightning scored twice to tie the game 3-3 in Wednesday’s second period, the Avalanche controlled the play, especially late in regulation and the start of overtime.
Now they’re focused on avoiding a letdown and heading to Florida with a 2-0 series lead. They can lean on lessons learned in the second round, when they lost Game 2 to St. Louis in what the players and coach Jared Bednar said was a subpar effort.
“We have to be aware that we had a letdown in that game against St. Louis,” Bednar said. “We don’t hide from it. We didn’t play well in that game at all. I don’t see why there’s any reason why we have a letdown going into Game 2 knowing the importance of the game.”
Colorado will likely be without forwards Nazem Kadri and Andrew Cogliano, both of whom were injured against the Oilers and are recovering from thumb surgery. Cogliano was a full participant in practice on Friday but Bednar was noncommittal about his availability for Saturday night.
Bednar was unwavering in his choice to start Darcy Kuemper in net to start this series. Kuemper was hurt in Game 1 against Edmonton and backup Pavel Francouz helped the Avalanche sweep. Despite Francouz’s strong play last round, Bednar went with Kuemper when he recovered from his upper-body injury.
Kuemper stopped 20 of 23 shots in Game 1.
“I was pretty happy with his performance,” Bednar said. “Darcy is a guy we leaned on heavily all year long. It’s why we relied on him to do this job.”
–Field Level Media