Lightning looks like upstarts in Game 1 loss to Avalanche

DENVER (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t the ones looking like the two-time defending champions in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night.

The Colorado Avalanche, playing for the first time in nine nights, took a 2-0, 3-1 lead in the first period beating the puck past otherworldly goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had only allowed only 2.27 goals per game in these playoffs.

Then Colorado, now 13-2 in the playoffs, held off a Tampa Bay rally to win 4-3 on Andre Burakovsky’s goal 1:23 into overtime.

The winner came after a poor turnover from Mikhail Sergachev, whose second-half goal tied it at 3.

Home teams have won 64 consecutive Cup final games leading by two or more goals, per ESPN. The last team to lose a two-goal lead and lose was the New York Rangers to Vancouver in 1994.

The Avalanche peppered reigning playoff MVP Vasilevskiy with plenty of pucks in the first period and Ball Arena was rocking, those $1,000 bills looking like bargains.

The Avalanche scored 65 goals in 14 playoff games to reach the Stanley Cup Final – their best playoff average of 6.46 points in 30 years – and they scored two more goals in the first 10 minutes of the First period.

The pedigree of the two-time defending champions showed with Ondrej Palat and Sergachev scoring goals less than a minute apart in the second period against Darcy Keumper, who was playing his first game since May 31 against Edmonton, to tie the knots things at 3.

It stayed that way until 1:23 into overtime.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper insisted Vasilevskiy was not to blame for the loss, suggesting no one in a Lightning jersey had played better than his goalie who stopped 22 consecutive shots before Burakovsky’s winner escaped on his left skate.

The Avalanche’s legs were both quick and fresh in their first game in nine days and their first Stanley Cup appearance in 21 years.

Add to that the altitude and attitude of the Avalanche, perhaps choppy ice and certainly uneven play early on from Vasilevskiy, who allowed unusual goals like the one Valeri Nichuskin scored in First period. That puck was the first to go through Vasilevskiy’s legs all postseason.

These Avalanches may be the upstarts, but they’re not fazed by the prospect of having to dethrone the two-time defending champions to win the Lord Stanley Cup.

Their confidence, like the thin air in the Mile High City, is exorbitant.

“I mean why not?” said captain Gabriel Landeskog, whose goal less than eight minutes into the game opened the scoring. “We are in the Stanley Cup Final. We deserved this place. We put in a lot of hard work. Obviously we have a lot of respect for these guys, but not too much.

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports




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