Mishkin’s Extra Shift: Lightning 6, Avalanche 2 – Game 3

Compared to their underperforming performance in Saturday’s one-sided loss, the Lightning were much sharper in game three. They played faster and their execution with the puck was crisper. As a result, they were able to pressure the Avalanche, create scoring chances, and ultimately perfect those looks. At the same time, the Lightning’s performance wasn’t flawless. It’s true that their puck play has improved since game two. Despite this, they sometimes struggled again with the defensive zone clears and the Avalanche amassed their own quality looks. but Andrei Vasilevsky was able to squash more chances than Darcy Kuemper (who was retired after conceding five goals in just over 31 minutes).

There were several crucial plays in game three. The first came upon a successful Jon Cooper challenge. Five minutes into the first period, the Avs thought they had taken the lead when Val Nichushkin’s shot ripped out of the gap and into Lightning’s net. Bo Byram almost saved Tampa Bay’s attempt to clear, but the puck went just wide of the blue line. It took the linesmen a few minutes to establish this fact, but ultimately the goal fell off the board.

Still, the Avs finally took the lead at 8:19 when Gabe Landeskog knocked a loose puck out of the crease during a Colorado power play. For the third game in a row, the Lightning had allowed the opening goal. But unlike the previous two competitions, they scored a goal in the next. Less than five minutes after the Landeskog count. Anthony Cirelli drove down the left wing and cut towards the net. The puck slipped through Kümper’s pads at 13:03, ending the game on one. Less than two minutes later, the Lightning had their first lead of the series. Ondrej Palat intercepted a pass from Devon Toews inside the Lightning Blue Line and countered Eis. He completed a give-and-go sequence with Steven Stamko and buried an open view from the slot.

Nick Paul appeared to pick up a serious injury late in the first. He fell off the benches along the boards on the opposite side of the ice. He struggled to get off the ice, favoring his right leg. But he bounced back early in the second period and scored the winning goal on his first frame shift. Aggressive forechecking by the Lightning resulted in a turnover. Ross Colton took the puck in the left corner and centered it to Paul, who fired a shot out of the slot.

The Avs forced a turnover in the Lightning end and took a penalty at 4:03. Landeskog scored his second goal of the game on the ensuing power play, deflecting a shot from the top of the left circle over Vasilevskiy’s blocker. But that would be the ultimate target for the Avs in game three.

Nikita Kutscherow and Stamkos teamed at the fourth Lightning score. Kucherov struggled in the offensive zone to maintain possession, then shoved a backhand to Stamkos, who was unguarded in the slot. Stamkos covered the puck over Kümper’s glove at 7:52. At 11:15 they extended their lead. Victor Hedman‘s fast outlet too Pat Maroon created a strange rush. Maroon passed the puck to Kucherov, who returned it to Maroon on the left circle. Maroon was able to go to the net because Erik Johnson had to block a possible pass to Stamkos in the slot. Maroon picked up a backhander from Kuemper and in. Pavel Francouz replaced Kuemper. He allowed a power play rebound goal Corey Perry at 14:58, conclusion of the scoring.

Despite leading 6-2, the Lightning still had work to do in the final 25 minutes. The Avs went on their third power play at 3:45 p.m. of the second to close the gap. But the Lightning navigated through the kill and maintained the four-goal lead over 40 minutes.

The Avs dominated possession for the first 10 minutes of game three. They accumulated several Class A scoring chances, but Vasilevskiy stopped them all and didn’t allow the visitors to get back into the game. The Lightning cleaned up their zone exits in the last 10 minutes and helped take the pressure off. The last half of the third period was full of penalties – the Lightning had three power plays and the Avs had one, but no pucks netted. One of the Colorado penalties went to Toews, who delivered a dangerous counter check to Kucherov, eventually forcing Kucherov out of the game. We’ll have to wait and see if he recovers in time for Wednesday’s fourth game.

The Lightning delivered key games at crucial moments. The overturned goal in the offside challenge. Cirelli and Palat’s goal is to eliminate the early Colorado lead. Paul’s return and aim to start second. Stamkos’s reply goal after the Avs narrowed to 3-2. And throughout the night, Vasilevskiy provided his team with quality saves (including a couple of pinpoint rebound stops at JT Compher).

This was one that Lightning badly needed. You have it. Now they’re back in the series within a game of the Avs.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):

1. Andrei Vasilevsky – Lightning. 37 stores.

2. Steven Stamkos – Blitz. goal and assist. 23-8 on face offs.

3. Nick Paul – Lightning. GWG.

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