TAMPA, Fla. – Through all the experience this Lightning team has drawn from, all the times they have rallied from deficits (in games and series) this postseason, they now face their toughest challenge.
The Lightning’s goal of winning three straight Stanley Cup titles hangs by a thread following their Game 4 loss to the Avalanche on Wednesday night at Amalie Arena.
On the brink of elimination following a 3-2 overtime defeat, the Lightning head back to Denver trailing three games to one.
The Lightning couldn’t hold a one-goal, third-period lead, and despite a remarkable performance by Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made 11 saves in overtime, Colorado won with 7:58 left in overtime on Nazem Kadri’s goal.
Kadri broke through a tired Lightning defense needing a line change, getting free of Mikhail Sergachev and beating Vasilevskiy blocker side.
The Lightning had been unbeatable at Amalie Arena in part because they hadn’t allowed a 5-on-5 goal in six games before Andrew Cogliano’s goal early in the third period. Nico Sturm backhanded his shot back toward the goal and it hit off Cogliano and past Vasilevskiy.
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period, sweeping through the neutral zone with determination before flinging a backhanded shot from the right dot past Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper far post. The goal was Hedman’s third of the postseason, but his first since Game 5 of the Lightning’s first-round series against Toronto.
Lightning center Anthony Cirelli scored just 36 seconds into Game 4, putting a rebound past Kuemper after Erik Cernak’s initial shot on goal hit Kuemper in the helmet and knocking it off.
Cirelli’s goal was the quickest in a Cup final game since Edmonton’s Fernando Pisani scored 16 seconds into Game 5 of the 2006 final against Carolina.
Despite outshooting the Avalanche 17-4 in the first period, Kuemper – back in net after getting pulled in the second period of Game 3 – kept Colorado in the game.
Colorado evened the score with its sixth power-play goal of the series when a loose puck in front of the net went off Gabriel Landeskog’s skate and into the net with 5:17 into the second period.
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