Avalanche strike first in Stanley Cup Final to take 1-0 series lead over Tampa Bay –

June 15, 2022; Denver, Colorado, United States; Colorado Avalanche left wing JT Compher (37) celebrates his team’s winning goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in first overtime in game one of the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The right team needed a hero and Andre Burakovsky delivered the extra-time exploits.

The Avalanche won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 at the Ball Arena after Burakovsky’s overtime. Colorado led 2-0, 3-1 before the Bolts fought back to level the score. But from that point on, the Avs closed things up and were able to walk away with a win.

“The right team won the game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “So give them credit for pulling it out.”

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Tampa Bay had just eight shots in the final 28 minutes of the game as the Avs overtook the Bolts 37-22.

“We’ve gotten better at ourselves,” Cooper said. “I don’t think we gave them our best game at a country mile and we still had a chance to pull it off. But to beat a talent like that, we have a better game in us.”

The evening began with the Avalanche being fed by an energetic crowd – one who has waited 21 years for a moment like this. Colorado scored twice before the 10-minute mark as Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin defeated superstar goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Even after Nick Paul conceded a goal for the Bolts, the Avs struck again before the break thanks to Artturi Lehkonen’s tip shot in the long 5-on-3 overtime game.

“Our fans were amazing in the playoffs and tonight was exceptional,” said Avs defender Bowen Byram. “It’s really fun to play in front of all our fans.”

The Avs had a power play opportunity to end the third period that went into overtime. They failed to score in the remaining 36 seconds but sent their redesigned second line to try and end the game. Center JT Compher shot the puck but he was blocked by the defender before making his way to Nichushkin.

With just one goal in the game, Nichushkin showed his gameplay skills, sending a pass to Burakowski – freezing the keeper in his goal corner – and allowing Burakowski to shoot him into a nearly open net.

“Huge X-factor, he’s been doing that for us for a couple of years now,” said Avs coach Jared Bednar. “He had some really good scoring chances of his own and obviously a big game at the end to set up Burky.”

The Avalanche had an overall successful night for the special teams. Aside from their power-play goal, they held Tampa Bay to just three power-play opportunities and killed on penalties every six minutes.

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, perhaps the most important player on the kill, was paramount in preventing Tampa Bay from capitalizing on its first opportunity. The Bolts had the first man advantage when the game was still scoreless and Kuemper had to make some outstanding saves to prevent them from scoring the first goal.

“He was our rock all playoffs on the PK,” Byram said. “He made some big saves that we need sometimes. Our goalkeeper has to be our best penalty killer. He made it big.”

His performance wasn’t perfect. But it was a good start for a man who missed most of the Western Conference Finals through injury.

“He put in a lot of work in the last week of practice to come back from the Edmonton series,” Bednar said. “Darcy is a guy we’ve leaned heavily on all year. That’s why we relied on him for this task. I thought he was pretty good tonight.”

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Aarif Deen is our beat reporter for Colorado Avalanche. He streams Avs games live from the Ball Arena and attends daily practices, media availability and other events related to the Avs. He is also the co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your Favorite Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports after completing his bachelor’s degree in journalism and his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Prior to Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as Assistant Sports Information Director.
Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

Listen to “The Right Team Won” on Spreaker.

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