Avalanche beat Lightning in Game 1 OT thriller to begin Stanley Cup Final

Avalanche beat Lightning in Game 1 OT thriller to begin Stanley Cup Final
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

On paper, a Lightning – Avalanche Stanley Cup Final seemed like it would be a dream for hockey fans — both casual and nerdy. They delivered.

The Avalanche didn’t let a surge from the Lightning discourage them. They kept firing away. Colorado won Game 1 4-3 in OT, giving the Avalanche 1-0 series lead over the Lightning.

Andre Burakovsky scored the overtime game-winner, thanks to some great work from Valeri Nichushkin. Nichushkin created some havoc, and also set up the Burakovsky goal.

Game 1 was all over just 1:23 into OT:

Can this series live up to incredible hype? So far, so very very very very good.

Avalanche don’t exactly look rusty early against Lightning in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

Considering the gap between sweeping the Oilers and facing the Lightning in Game 1 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, the “rest vs. rust” debate was reasonably valid for the Avalanche. That said, if you’re like me, you often can’t help how often people take big leaps about rust.

(Hot takes alert: rust is often not the real story, and rest is grossly underrated.)

Well, the rust-obsessed will want to burn the tape here. The Avalanche began Game 1 on a tear, putting the Lightning in an early 2-0 hole after shaky goals allowed by Andrei Vasilevskiy.

First, a Mikko Rantanen shot leaked through Vasilevskiy, with Gabriel Landeskog putting home a loose puck in the paint:

Next, Valeri Nichushkin scored on a shot Vasilevskiy often stops. Granted, Nichushkin did get to shoot from a fairly dangerous spot:

To little surprise, the Lightning didn’t just roll over against the Lightning early in Game 1. Thanks in part to some zany bounces, Nicholas Paul scored a 2-1 goal:

Through the first 20 minutes, the Avs’ speed was apparent. There were also times when the mile-high altitude may have been a factor. After receiving a 5-on-3 opportunity (the second penalty enraging Anthony Cirelli and Jon Cooper), the Avalanche restored a two-goal advantage via a tip-in from Artturi Lehkonen:

 

Ray Ferraro uttered a key phrase: keeping the play alive. Erik Cernak and Vasilevskiy seemed winded as that 5-on-3 power play went along. There was a moment or two when it seemed like Tampa Bay might get relief. Instead, Colorado pulled off a couple key keeps. Eventually, they exploited that fatigue.

[Can the Lightning slow the Avalanche down? In Game 1, the Avs were often dynamic.]

No doubt, home-ice advantage means getting some lineup perks. The Avalanche will try to pick-and-choose when Nathan MacKinnon will face lockdown Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli. But the altitude factor could really matter. The Avs already have the fresher, generally younger legs than the Bolts …

It’s been mentioned that Andrei Vasilevskiy has started some series slowly. Sportsnet noted that his GAA in Game 1s was 4.51, and then 1.90 in Games 2-7. This was an even slower start for the elite goalie.

A striking surge in second period

At times in their series against the Rangers, every goal (for and against) seemed absolutely crucial for the Bolts. The Lightning reminded us of their versatility in getting back into Game 1 against the Avalanche.

In successive shifts, the Lightning shrunk a 3-1 Avalanche lead into a 3-3 tie. It was one of the fastest bursts in the history of Game 1 action in a Stanley Cup Final.

After knocking on the door more than once, Tampa Bay’s big guns broke through. Nikita Kucherov provided his latest spell-binding assist, setting up a beautiful Ondrej Palat tally.

Less than a minute later, Mikhail Sergachev continued to have the hot hand with his second goal of the playoffs.

This extended Sergachev’s point-streak to three games. Before this burst, Sergachev experienced a five-game playoff point drought, and had been limited to two assists over a 10-game span.

One might get the impression that the Lightning were wilting the Avalanche’s will with that period. While it had to sting Colorado to see a two-goal lead disappear, they didn’t exactly relent. They just couldn’t score.

No doubt, Vasilevskiy bounced back during that frame.

Scoreless third period leads to OT finish in Game 1

Throughout this contest, the Avs kept pushing. That could be seen in the underlying stats. At 5-on-5, the Avalanche generated a significant expected goals advantage over the Lightning. Via Natural Stat Trick, the expected goals advantage was 2.57 to 1.04.

And you can definitely argue that Colorado’s power play was more dangerous. (Even beyond getting a PPG where Tampa Bay didn’t.)

[X-factors for the 2022 Stanley Cup Final]

Nonetheless, the Lightning pushed the Avalanche to overtime. It wouldn’t take long for the Avs to win it from there, though.

Now, the other fun parts: how will both teams adjust? Chances are, it will be a blast to watch. Game 1 won’t be easy to top, though.

Stanley Cup Final Game 1 injury/health/lineup notes for Lightning – Avalanche

2022 Stanley Cup Final schedule

COLORADO AVALANCHE v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (COL leads 1-0)

Game 1: Avalanche 4, Lightning 3 (OT)
Game 2 – June 18: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 3 – June 20: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – June 22: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5 – June 24: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 6 – June 26: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 7 – June 28: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)

* If necessary

Scroll Down For: