Avalanche Net Belongs to Darcy Kuemper in Stanley Cup Final | Sports News

By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Hockey writer

DENVER (AP) — Darcy Kuemper grinned.

Finally, a day after saying that he and his Colorado Avalanche goalkeeping partner Pavel Francouz usually get a text message the night before a game telling them who’s starting, he admitted it wasn’t such a big secret, getting intos Going to the Stanley Cup Finals.

“I might have known a little longer,” he said.

There was no goaltender controversy then, and there is no goaltender controversy for the Avalanche, who defeated back-to-back defending champions Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime to win the opener of the best-of-seven series. Kuemper made 20 saves from 23 shots and has the confidence of coach Jared Bednar going into Game 2 on Saturday night.

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“I was pretty happy with his performance,” said Bednar. “Darcy is a guy we’ve leaned heavily on all year. That’s why we relied on him for this task.”

The Avalanche played it like it was some sort of debate between Kuemper, their all-season starter who has missed time in these playoffs through injury, and Francouz, who stepped in 6-0. They know they’re one of only five teams with options in NHL history to have two different goalies each win at least five games during a playoff run.

But most teams would like to lean on one man, and Kuemper, accidentally slamming a stick into his right eye through a hole in his mask in the first round, is the only thing stopping him from playing every game.

Kuemper insists he is now fully healthy. That was evident in a couple of key stops he made on three successful penalty kills in Colorado in Game 1, which was another step for him to make the eye injury a thing of the past.

“It was an unfortunate incident on the first lap,” he said. “I’m glad I got through it and everything’s back to normal now so there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not easy to watch some of these games but the team was so great it just worried me again to get sharp and get well.”

Lightning star Brayden Point got off to a slightly slow start in Game 1 but that’s understandable given he hadn’t played in a month due to a right leg injury. Despite the long layoff, Point skated for almost 18 minutes, assisting Nick Paul’s goal and drawing a penalty.

Having started the series in Tampa Bay’s third row, Point is now a candidate to move closer to his usual front row role.

“It’s not per se where I’m going to put Brayden Point,” coach Jon Cooper said Thursday. “That’s what’s best for our team and usually when he’s in the line-up it’s good for us.”

Cooper liked what he saw in Point in the opening game, although it’s clear the Lightning’s leading scorer hasn’t returned to that form in the last two playoffs.

“He handled it pretty well,” Cooper said. “He fixes his game and his hands. I can assume he’ll get more Ice Age as he’s feeling better.”

Neither team trained Thursday with an extra day between Games 1 and 2. Some Avalanche players trained on the rink, but the priority is rest as almost all expect a long streak.

“In a seven-game streak, you can’t be caught admiring a win, or whatever you want to call it,” said Colorado defenseman Bowen Byram. “We will prepare in the next few days and get back on the road.”

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