TAMPA– The story could be beautiful. Indeed, it should be. Especially for Colorado Avalanche fans.
Because after spending 18 days on the sidelines due to a left thumb injury soon after being illegally hit from behind in Game 3 of the Western Finals after convincing his manager Jared Bednar that he could contribute to his team’s success even if he was clearly unable to shoot with power and precision, Nazem Kadri welcomed his return to the game by scoring the winning goal at 12:02 on the first extension period.
Kadri ended the game after teammates Devon Toews and Bowen Byram hit the crossbar and a post. After Andrei Vasilevskiy made 10 saves, including the thefts of Logan O’Connor and Josh Manson, to keep the Lightning in play even though they were completely beaten in overtime.
The fact that he is a player with a bruised thumb and probably anesthetized to stem the pain, a player unable to shoot with the power and precision that distinguishes him who ends up outsmarting the best goalkeeper in the world, gives even more color. to this beautiful story. .
Especially since this 3-2 victory offered by Kadri pushes the Colorado Avalanche and their supporters to victory in a Stanley Cup conquest. A conquest they could have celebrated on Friday at the Ball Arena in Denver.
Too many players on the track
This is where the beautiful story loses its color. At least according to the Lightning who are in a very precarious position. Leaning against the wall, the “Bolts” must sign three consecutive victories, including two at high altitude, in Denver, to change the tide and find a way to win the third consecutive championship.
The challenge is colossal. It is almost insurmountable.
It was therefore normal to see the coach Jon Cooper appear in front of the reporters, with his head down, with a gloomy face, a little discouraged.
Cooper didn’t really listen to the first question. He was distracted. He looked defeated.
After stammering a few words about his team’s good start to the game in a completely indifferent manner, the Lightning manager let out a cry from the heart.
He didn’t scream. This no! Far from it. But in a voice choked with disappointment, Jon Cooper said, “This defeat hurts a lot. I am heartbroken for my players because we should still be on the ice right now. “
Without giving more details as to what allowed him to go there with such a claim, Cooper indicated that he would make the point Thursday, before the Lightning’s departure for Denver. Then he got up and left the interview room.
But what was Cooper talking about?
Looking at the replays of the consecutive series leading up to the winning goal, we notice the possibility that Bowen Byram has touched the puck beyond the allowed limit. But it’s not obvious.
Later in the sequence we notice the presence on the ice of six Avalanche skaters. Watching the replays several times, it quickly becomes clear that Nazem Kadri jumps onto the ice well before Nathan MacKinnon, from whom he came to take over, is even close to the bench again. When Kadri receives the fine pass from Artturi Lehkonen in the middle of the ice and breaks off to his left to rush into the enemy zone, MacKinnon is not yet on the bench.
The violation was not reported. Kadri scored. The avalanche has won.
On the first official summary published by the NHL, it is noted the presence of seven members of the Avalanche in the section reserved for players on the ice at the time of the goal. Let’s see the numbers of Bowen Byram, Erik Johnson, Valeri Nichushkin, Josh Manson, Artturi Lehkonen, Nazem Kadri and that of goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper.
No trace of Nathan MacKinnon being on the ice anyway.
In a second official summary published about 20 minutes after the first release, the NHL made a correction and deleted Jack Johnson’s number.
Actual attack or normal game play?
Was Jon Cooper right to throw such a bombshell in his post-match comments? A bomb that calls into question not only the victory of Avalanche, but the integrity of the League in the application of the regulation?
In a certain way, yes. Because it is clear that Kadri, when he touches the puck, should never have had the chance to reach the goal defended by Andrei Vasilevskiy as the referees would have had to call the stoppage and inflict a penalty on Avalanche. .
On the other hand, this kind of “illegal” change has become common in NHL games. The game is so fast in today’s hockey that teams regularly find themselves with one, sometimes two, and sometimes even three players too many on the ice for a second, or two or three.
And it should also not be forgotten that the regulation provides that a player who is at stick distance from his bench – if he is not involved in the game of course – is not considered too much on the track as he is about to re-enter his teammates for a rest period.
The problem with Wednesday’s winning goal is that Nazem Kadri is clearly in action as the Avalanche rely on having six skaters and a goaltender on the ice.
Asked whether his goal wasn’t good according to Jon Cooper’s claims, Nazem Kadri seemed completely surprised. “I have absolutely no idea what that refers to. That goal was good, “replied the hero of Avalanche after the match.
Equally surprised was his coach Jared Bednar.
“Initially, I didn’t see the record come in. But I saw Nazem play a great game to cut the net and throw a shot that surprised Vasilevskiy. Darcy (Kuemper) had a great deal of presence of mind in pulling the puck forward as both teams made changes. Artturi (Lehkonen) made a nice pass and Nazem played the kind of game he can do. He had indicated that he was ready to return for a few days. I met him, because I wanted to make sure he didn’t just come back to come back, but that he came back to perform. He showed it in that match, “said the Avalanche manager.
The breathless lightning bolt
Jon Cooper’s complaints, however justified in the eyes of some and unjustified and exaggerated in the eyes of others, will not change Wednesday night’s final score.
At best, Cooper and the Lightning will get an apology from the NHL if the leaders acknowledge that there was indeed one player too many on the ice for Avalanche.
That said, when you look at how the overtime unfolded, the Lightning were so dominated, so overwhelmed, so unable to cope with the pace imposed by the Avalanche that it seemed obvious that Colorado would end up winning.
But ok! That doesn’t stop Cooper, his bosses, his players and their supporters from believing that a massive attack, granted in overtime, could have allowed the Lightning to reverse the value in overtime. To win the game and level the odds in the final series instead of being a setback from an elimination.
An elimination that now seems imminent.
This is not about pretending the double champions give up. But it goes without saying that the Lightning is lagging behind. He looks out of breath as his opponent clearly seems to be enjoying a second wind which makes the duel a bit erratic.
Also, Nikita Kucherov looks really weakened from an injury. He was struggling to skate on Wednesday. He was practically invisible. And on the rare occasions that he touched the puck, he attempted quick passes as if he didn’t want to keep possession of the puck. He has tried four shots, only two hit the target.
Brayden Point missed a second consecutive match. And if he comes back, he clearly won’t be at the top of his game.
Erik Cernak made just 11 appearances on Wednesday night. Hit in the leg by a powerful slap shot from Nathan MacKinnon, during a massive “AVS” attack, he did not play the rest of the game.
Author of the first goal of the match, scored from the 36thAnd second game when Lightning gave Avalanche the kind of start that Colorado normally reserves for opponents, Anthony Cirelli sustained an arm or shoulder injury as well as suffering the repercussions of a blocked shot.
Captain Steven Stamkos also suffered twice when he blocked the shots from the Avalanche.
The kind of sacrifices needed to win. Sacrifices that earn more easily with victory. Sacrifices that undermine morale and detract from enthusiasm when the team loses.
Especially in extra time as has now happened twice in four games played since the start of the grand finale.
Lightning players blocked 34 of the 90 shots fired by Avalanche in three and a half bouts Wednesday. This flawless defensive work complicated the cause of Avalanche strikers who were nevertheless able to recover twice from a one-goal disadvantage: Nathan MacKinnon scored his 12And series during a massive attack in the medium term and Andrea Cogliano (3And) at the start of the third – before Nazem Kadri scored his seventh goal in the playoffs.
“I was looking forward to joining my teammates, to take part in the big party that is the Stanley Cup final. I am very happy to have been able to do it tonight,” Kadri testified, adding that the most difficult was yet to come, as a fourth win in a best-of-seven series is always the hardest to achieve.
We’ll see if that’s the case on Friday, when Avalanche and Lightning meet again at Denver’s Ball Arena. Maybe for the last time.