2022 Stanley Cup Final: The Lightning maintain their lead, a stag beetle roots for Colorado and more from Game 4

The Tampa Bay Lightning showed some life in Game 3 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. After getting blown out in Game 2, Tampa got goals from six different scorers in a 6-2 win.

After allowing 11 goals in the first two games, Andrei Vasilevskiy was back in form in net, making 37 saves. The Lightning have now won a franchise-record eight consecutive home playoff games.

And for the 23rd straight season, there will not be a sweep in the Stanley Cup Final.

Avs center Nathan MacKinnon, who had 32 goals in the regular season, finally broke his mini slump in the Stanley Cup Final. He finally got on the board in the second period with a wild goal that bounced off his skate after a shot by Mikko Rantanen.

It will be a pivotal night in Tampa before the series returns to Denver for Friday’s Game 5. Here are all the sights and sounds from Game 4.

Back and forth

This might end up being the closest game of these Stanley Cup Finals, as the Avalanche tie it up again with a goal from Nico Sturm.

Avalanche second-period takeaways

Nathan MacKinnon has entered the chat.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Colorado’s star center had been snakebit to start the Stanley Cup Final, failing to register a goal through the first three games. MacKinnon pledged to not get frustrated (a trait of his during past slumps) and keep shooting until he found an opening.

His power-play goal wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, nor did it require an actual shot. But it did tie the score in Game 4 at 1-1.

It was MacKinnon who actually passed the puck to Mikko Rantanen, and Rantanen sent it back on net where the puck bounced off his skate and past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

They don’t ask how. They ask how many.

No one needed a goal like MacKinnon, though. While Tampa Bay’s stars have been stepping up, it was hurting Colorado to see their outstanding performer with only two assists in three outings.

An enduring problem, though? Colorado doesn’t have an even-strength goal since the series shifted to Tampa; all three have come so far with the extra man. Not great. — Kristen Shilton

Lightning second-period takeaways

Last night was a weird night for Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar. It was the night before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final and they were dressed in suits at the NHL Awards dinner, held at a local Tampa brewery. Hedman got all dolled up just to watch Makar win the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. It was the sixth time Hedman was nominated for the award. He’s only won it once.

So there was probably some matter of satisfaction for Hedman in the second period when he scored the kind of goal that Norris trophies are made of: Dangling through the neutral zone, then the Avalanche defense, before floating a shot past Darcy Kuemper’s blocker side for a 2-1 lead at 10:42 of the period. Was a lot of this goal Jack Johnson‘s defense and a whiff by Kuemper? Granted, it was. But it was still a marvelous move and a monumental goal by Hedman. We’re checking the NHL bylaws to see if Makar has to legally surrender the Norris to him now.

The other big performance of the second period was goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. He gave up a power play goal on a puck that bounced off the skate of Nathan MacKinnon — the Avalanche’s sixth power-play goal of the series — but was otherwise vintage Big Cat with 15 saves in the period. If the Lightning weren’t blocking them, he was saving them.

The period didn’t end well for the Bolts, however. Anthony Cirelli, their key defensive center against the MacKinnon line, left the ice clutching his arm with just over a minute to go. Certainly something to keep an eye on for the third.
— Greg Wyshynski

Tampa regains the lead

Victor Hedman gives the Lightning their first goal of the second period and a 2-1 lead. It’s Hedman’s third goal of the postseason and his first since May 10.

All tied up

The Avalanche struck back a few minutes into the second period, with MacKinnon sending a rebound home for his first goal of the series after 32 attempts, the most of any player on either team.

Avalanche first period takeaways

Colorado couldn’t have seen that start coming.

It would take Tampa Bay only 36 seconds to go up 1-0 over the Avalanche on an incredibly fluky sequence.

The Lightning had good offensive zone pressure early when Erik Cernak fired a shot on Darcy Kuemper that knocked the goaltender’s mask right off. Kuemper then couldn’t get across to stop Anthony Cirelli‘s ensuing play that put Tampa Bay on the board.

Normally, when a goalie’s mask comes off there’s an immediate whistle but, in this case, because there was an ongoing scoring chance, play was allowed to continue.

Kuemper was in for a tough enough Game 4 before that. He got the nod to start after being pulled midway through Game 3 for allowing five goals on 22 shots. He didn’t need a weird goal throwing his confidence off further. Kuemper rebounded (no pun intended) nicely though while the Avalanche floundered in front of him, being outshot 10-1 through the first 13 minutes.

In fact, Kuemper was about the only thing holding Colorado together for those first 20 minutes. That’s a dangerous position for the Avalanche to put themselves in. He made a great glove stop on Steven Stamkos and then was sharp on Tampa Bay’s late power-play chance.

The Avalanche finished the period being outshot 17-4.

Yikes. — Kristen Shilton

Lightning first period takeaways

The Lightning are 7-1 when they have a lead after the first period in the playoffs, which is another way of saying that this is a team that knows how to play with a lead. They blocked 13 shots in front of Vasilevskiy and altered a few more. They clogged the neutral zone and didn’t allow the Avalanche to build up their speed game. The Lightning earned substantial zone time with their forecheck, especially with their fourth line that earned the game’s only power play.

That said, it’s still just a 1-0 lead for the Lightning after the first, despite that power play opportunity and 17 shots on goal. There were some squandered chances there and Kuemper was able to regain his footing after a shaky start. — Greg Wyshynski

Wasting no time

It looks like the Lightning are over their disastrous Game 2, as they needed less than a minute for the game’s first goal. Also a scary moment for Kuemper, as the goaltender took a stick to the neck that knocked his helmet off.

Smallest biggest fan

Butterfly Pavilion, a zoo located in Westminster, Colorado, and its resident stag beetle wished the Avalanche good luck ahead of Game 4.

Look the part, be the part

Both teams were all business heading into the arena for Game 4.

Return of the ring(s)

Mascots deserve their championship rings just as much as anyone else, which is why it’s heartwarming to see the Lightning’s mascot get two back that he’d lost.

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