After two consecutive losses in the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4 was an absolute thriller between the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The game was deadlocked at 2-2 after regular time. Then, at 12:02 overtime, Nazem Kadri scored the winning goal—yes, the same Nazem Kadri who played in his first return game after breaking his thumb in the Western Conference Finals.
What lessons have we learned from this? And what does it all mean, looking forward to Game 5 on Friday, with the Aves one win away from the Stanley Cup?
Kadri’s big comeback
The writing was on the wall after Kadri took Wednesday’s morning skate, even if Bednar didn’t confirm it at the time: Kadri was ready for game 4. And he was an overtime hero in doing so.
The forward has not played since Evander Kane grabbed his backboard and broke his thumb in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on June 4. He started skating again shortly after the operation and Bednar said that Kadri’s inclusion in the line-up again depends on pain relief. than anything.
Bednar shuffled his lines accordingly to accommodate the return of Qadri, moving Gabriel Landeskog and Valery Nichushkin from Nathan McKinnon’s flanks to Qadri’s flanks. Landeskog can take a left-handed throw-in for Kadri, and he’s as big as Nichushkin, so they can isolate Kadri in many ways.
It quickly became clear how far Kadri was from 100%. He didn’t want to—or couldn’t—shoot the puck with his usual strength and, to compensate, he passed with less accuracy. Whether due to nerves or because his thumb was holding back Kadri, he still tried to make an impact every shift by dropping his body or just stepping onto the lanes.
When he grabbed the marker that gave Colorado a 3-1 lead in the Cup Final, he felt appropriate. Kadri put it all on the line, and the shot he did make – one of only two in the game – was everything Colorado could have hoped for. — Kristen Shilton
The Lightning didn’t take advantage when they had all the momentum in the first period of Game 4. They didn’t take advantage of their powerplay. The longer the game went on, the more the Avalanche had an advantage going into the Stanley Cup Finals. By the time Kadri scored the game-winner, the Lightning were in pure counterpunch mode with the Avalanche playing most of the game.
Now they face an almost insurmountable problem. Teams with a 3:1 lead in the sevens hold a series record of 298:31 (.906), including a 2:1 (.667) clip in 2022 and 35:1 (.972). ) in the Stanley Cup Finals. They return to Colorado, where the line-matching advantage they had at home is gone.
After this defeat, the Lightning Champion’s heart will fail. — Greg Wyshinsky
Colorado couldn’t have foreseen this. Darcy Kemper certainly couldn’t.
It took Tampa Bay just 36 seconds to beat the Avalanche 1-0 to score the strangest goal. The Lightning had good pressure in the attacking zone early on when Eric Cernak landed a shot on Kemper, who promptly knocked the keeper’s mask off. Kemper then failed to stop the ensuing Anthony Cirelli play that put Tampa Bay on the board.
Normally, when the goalkeeper’s mask is removed, a whistle blows immediately, but in this case, due to an ongoing scoring chance, the game was continued.
After the early goal, Tampa Bay continued to dominate. Kemper was under siege when the Lightning outplayed Colorado 17-4 within 20 minutes, but he kept it 1-0. Nathan McKinnon finally helped the goaltender score his first goal in the Cup Final after an assist from Mikko Rantanen. who got off McKinnon’s skate. One way or another, the account was tied.
Victor Hedman returned Tampa Bay to a 2-1 lead, which they would win in Game 3. Nico Sturm fielded Andrew Cogliano early in the third round to equalize again.
It was like something we haven’t seen in this series yet. We witnessed total dominance (7-0 and 6-2 finals) and one wild ender in overtime. This night was more strategic after a messy first period. The fluctuations in momentum were real and well tolerated by both parties. It seemed that Colorado and Tampa Bay had finally settled down, that they understood each other. In the end, it was only right that the game needed extra time to find a winner.
So what does this mean for what lies ahead? Are we in for a tense contested streak from here? Or was it an exceptional case, and new failures are ahead of us? — Shilton
Avs Special Teams Dominance Continues
No, it wasn’t the prettiest powerplay goal, as the puck bounced off Nathan McKinnon’s skate behind Andrei Vasilevskiy at 5:17 of the second period. But it was another powerplay goal for the Avalanche, who have dominated special teams this series.
After Game 4, Colorado is now 6-for-13 with a player advantage, a ridiculously good conversion rate of 46.2%. The Lightning entered the game with a penalty kill rate of 77.9% overall and just 67.9% on home ice.
“They have a good powerplay and feed off of it. This gives them energy. But we have a good PC, and eventually I know that at some point the rebounds will also start to go our way. It doesn’t bother me,” Coach John. Cooper said.
However, it might be time to worry a bit about the Lightning’s power play. Avalanche has killed 13 out of 14 power plays in the series. With the kind of scoring talent that Tampa Bay has on the power-play, it’s unbelievable. Cooper spoke of his punishment as “killing them at the right time”. In the two most intense games of the series, Game 1 and Game 4, one Lightning power-play goal would have been decisive. — Vyshinsky
Need for Speed
Colorado took a 2-0 lead in this series due to their speed. There were other factors, but this was very important.
In their first two home games, the Avalanche outran Tampa Bay all over the ice and were particularly quick in the neutral zone, hitting and reclaiming pucks. Avalanche’s quick attack hardened Lightning.
Well, that speed dwindled in the Florida heat.
Colorado looked closer to rolling on the sand in the first half of Game 4. Their tenacity and foresight came to a halt. Was it because the Lightnings were moving faster outside of Denver height? Or has something drastically changed in Colorado?
In the third period and overtime, Avalanche felt more confident. There was a more noticeable jump in their game.
The difficulty of getting there is worth tracking now. Fast play on the ice has become a hallmark of Colorado’s success. Without it, it’s hard to generate those juicy opportunities in a hurry. The Lightning had to make adjustments, but the Colorado can do the same and bring back the missing speed. This will be especially important now that Tampa Bay has nothing to lose. — Shilton
Hedman’s big move
Last night was a strange one for Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar. It was the night before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and they were dressed in suits for an NHL awards dinner at a local Tampa brewery.
Hedman only dressed up to watch Makar win the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL. This was the sixth time Hedman had been nominated for this award. He only won it once. So it’s likely that Hedman was satisfied in the second period when he scored the kind of goal that Norris Trophy nominations are made of: he flew through the neutral zone, then through the Avalanche defense, and then shot past the blocker Kemper. 2-1 lead in 10:42 period.
Hedman had a strong and active night for the Lightning. It was arguably the best game he played in the 2022 playoffs as it made a difference at both ends of the floor.
“You don’t look at the points table at this time of year, you look at the win table,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how you do it, you just want it to be done.” — Vyshinsky
Counting on Kemper
Kemper’s confidence could have been lost along with his mask on that first goal.
Colorado’s starter was stopped in the middle of Game 3 for allowing five goals on 22 shots, and although Jared Bednar gave him the go-ahead for Game 4, Tampa Bay’s accidental first result could have hit Kemper in the head. On the contrary, it seemed to cheer up the network operator. He was the only one to hold Colorado in the opening 20 minutes as the Avalanche lost 17–4. He made a particularly good save against Steven Stamkos and was accurate on the Lightning’s powerplay.
Kemper continued to hold the pucks until McKinnon finally placed one of his skates for the Avs on the power play. At that point, the draw was a victory in itself, given that the Avalanche were losing heavily 5-on-5.
Victor Hedman’s goal after that? On a stoppable left hand? It’s on the camper. He has been impressively inconsistent in the playoffs. And, of course, Kemper resumed key stops as Colorado bounced back with a fourth-line goal to tie the game.
Bednar praised Kemper’s ability to regroup and make big gains in Avalanche when it mattered most. However, as in the notorious box of Forrest Gump chocolates, you never know what you will get out of it.
Make no mistake, Kemper is Colorado’s best answer on the grid (with all due respect to Pavel Frankuz). He ended up doing pretty well, making 37 saves. It’s just hard not to wonder if his striping might make the team skittish, given that everything is at stake in this Cup final. — Shilton