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
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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


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

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

    avalanche injuries
    André Ringuette/Getty Images
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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

    Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.