Bad teams don’t win the Stanley Cup back-to-back, and last night the Tampa Bay Lightning proved that.
Trailing 2-0 from the first two games of the series against the Colorado Avalanche, the latter defeat a 7-0 humiliation, Tampa star players were shell-shocked after the game and captain Steven Stamkos said after the defeat, “Let’s find out what we’re made of when we get back home.”
The answer? Strong stuff indeed as the Lightning struck half a dozen times to claim a 6-2 win in Game 3 to cut the deficit in the series down to 2-1.
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Star Men Turned Up
The Lightning had a point to prove after that Game 2 defeat and during Game 3, and despite
a relatively slow start, their star men began to find their rhythm.
Captain Stamkos led by example, but he was supported by excellent performances by Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat in particular.
Importantly, goalie Andrei Vasilevski proved why he is one of the best in the league with 37 saves in the game.
Despite going down 1-0 during the power play to Gabriel Landskog’s score, the Lightning didn’t take a step back, they began to win the battle in the neutral zone, individually Tampa players were getting on top and for the first time in a month, the Avalanche tasted a defeat.
Contrasting Goalkeeping Situations
While Vasilevski was outstanding for the hometown Lightning, the Avalanche now have an issue in the goalkeeper department.
Incumbent Darcy Kuemper started the game well for the Avalanche but struggled later in the game, allowing five goals on just 22 shots.
Kuemper may not be the most technically gifted goalie in the NHL, but he does keep the ball out and did so during the first quarter, before things began to fall apart for him.
Jared Bednar wisely made the move in the third quarter benching Kuemper and bringing Pavel Francouz back into the fray, which helped stop the momentum for the Lightning, but the move was too little too late to bring the Avalanche back into the game.
Bendar now has a dilemma, stick with Kuemper after a shaky performance in Game 3, or bring back Francouz, who seemed to offer more poise and consistency in goal?
Game 4 Odds From DraftKings
All eyes will now turn towards Game 4 of the series, which will once again be played in Tampa on Wednesday evening.
DraftKings Sportsbook have marked both teams at the same price on the moneyline, -110, which suggests that the bookmakers feel as many fans do, that this game is there for the taking for both teams.
Certainly, the Avalanche will be under no illusions as to how difficult Game 4 will be and they’ll be hoping better goalkeeping from whoever is selected in that role and a more prominent role for Nathan MacKinnon will help them achieve that.
For the Lightning, this has all the echoes of their last series in the playoffs where after a slow start they rattled off four wins in a row over the New York Rangers to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Tampa fans will be hoping to see a second win for their team on Wednesday night and I think they may just get their wish in what should be a close and exciting game.