The Colorado Avalanche are about to reach their immense potential after a storybook, although controversialending Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
After missing the first three games of the series to recover from a surgically repaired thumb, Nazem Kadri scored in overtime on a partial breakaway to lead the Avalanche to a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, putting Colorado one win away from lifting the Stanley Cup.
Kadri’s magnificent and unlikely winner spoiled a brilliant performance from Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had thus far thwarted an inspired Avalanche effort with 35 saves in the game, including 10 in overtime.
It was the only clean goal scored by Vasilevskiy on a night in which the Avalanche had to find other means. The Avalanche twice tied the game before Kadri gave his team their first and only lead, with Nathan MacKinnon scoring his first goal of the series on a lucky deflection and Nico Sturm using a lucky rebound as well to record his first of the playoffs. .
Vasilevskiy’s counterpart, Darcy Kuemper, was also busy, making 37 saves. The only faults from him were goals from Anthony Cirelli and Victor Hedman.
Kuemper also contributed offensively, moving the puck across the ice to get a second assist on Kadri’s game-winning shot.
Which brings us to the controversy we weren’t aware of until Jon Cooper briefly and emotionally met with reporters, before delivering a rare cliffhanger.
The Lightning head coach promised in his media session that we would see evidence that the Bolts should have “played on” once the Kadri winner was reviewed under a more critical lens.
And, while not immediately clear, it would be noted that after Kuemper pushed the puck onto the ice and found Kadri’s stick, an Avalanche player, MacKinnon, had not completed his changeup.
According to the letter of the law, Cooper, the former attorney, has a valid point with six Avalanche skaters on the ice, who own the puck. And for that reason, Lightning fans will be aggrieved by something they wouldn’t have noticed without Cooper’s theatrics, while Avalanche fans and most everyone else will argue that the fact that MacKinnon didn’t jump on boards really doesn’t matter. influenced the work.
Upon further examination, it appeared that the Lightning had extras on the ice as well, as both teams worked to complete the changes.
All of Cooper’s postgame press, which included a long and dramatic preface before making his point, is worth parsing.
What Cooper’s comments shouldn’t distract from is the biggest headline of the night, which is Kadri reaching the apex of her personal redemption arc.
The hockey crowd was heartbroken for Kadri when the talented forward, who was finally able to control his emotions on the postseason stage after consecutive seasons of disappointing his teams with dirty and punishable plays, was injured in a reckless push by Evander Kane. in the Western Conference finals.
There was no promise that Kadri could compete in the NHL championship series, let alone contribute at a high level. And after a bit of a slow start to the game, and a clear postponement on the part of him as he nursed a presumably cumbersome protection on his thumb, it seemed Kadri hadn’t been able to provide a boost.
Of course, Kadri grew into the game before making a brilliant move on Mikhail Sergachev to create a scoring opportunity that was used to drive the puck under Vasilevskiy’s arm and into the roof of the net.
With Kadri’s return and Tampa’s comeback story with Brayden Point coming to nothing, the Avalanche are clearly the freshest, most complete team.
And now they have three chances to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 21 years, with the first to come. Friday night in Denver.
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