Well, that wasn’t what the city of Denver planning for after Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning. Lord Stanley will head to Tampa Bay for Game 6, and maybe back to Denver for a Game 7.
The Avalanche took four penalties, including a Cale Makar tripping penalty that put the Lightning on a 4-on-3 power play. The Lightning capitalized for a 2-1 lead in the second period.
“I didn’t love that call just because, there is no intent there,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar after the game, “I don’t even think he was checking that guy, looked to me like he kind of tripped over a stick.”
Bednar may not have loved the call, but he certainly can’t blame this thing on the refs. The fact of the matter is: the Avalanche didn’t play to their identity like they’ve preached all playoffs. They were too fancy with the puck, played too much east-west hockey instead of north-south, and lost the goaltending battle.
Game 6 Sunday in Tampa Bay. Mayor Handcock, cancel the parade plans, for now.
The Colorado Avalanche played a loser’s game from the start, with early penalties that put them on their heels. They weren’t the aggressors to loose pucks, and the top-line guys like Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen just weren’t good enough at all.
Sloppy line changes by Bednar and his crew were a killer. They got away with it in Game 4, but a too-many-men call with a little more than two minutes left killed any momentum.
So, it’s back to Tampa.
Colorado Avalanche Special Teams
Those early penalties took the Avalanche out of rhythm. They fought to find their groove by the middle of the first period. The Avalanche finished 0-2 on the power play but gave the Lightning one on the power play. The penalty with a little over two minutes left proved to be the dagger as the Avalanche couldn’t pull Kuemper and had only about 30 seconds in the Lightning’s zone before the final horn.
“I think we left early,” said Bednar of the too many men on the ice call in the final 3 minutes of the game, “The puck kind of popped up in the center of the ice and guys were on their way to the bench.”
You can’t make those kinds of mistakes when trying to close out a Stanley Cup Final game against a proud, two-time defending Cup champion playing in desperation mode.
The Avalanche got what they deserved tonight: The L.
For the most part, this was an evenly played game. Going into the third period the shots, blocked shots and hits were all close. By the end of the game, the Avalanche had 37 shots to Tampa Bay’s 29 and outhit them 43 to 33. The Lightning skated away with the win and kept the series alive.
“Guys have been digging in on the road,” said Bednar “We’ve seen it through the regular season, we’ve seen it really step up in the playoffs, guys come hungry and ready to play.”
The Avalanche are back in action Sunday night at 6 p.m. in Tampa Bay where they will look again to end the series and win the franchise’s third Stanley Cup.
Notes and Observations
– The Colorado Avalanche fans were ready to party. You could really feel the disappointment when the game was over.
– The team seemed sloppy with their passes at times and a little careless with the puck.
– Bednar didn’t seem too worried. He liked the game for the most part. But that seemed a bit too much like a “whistling past the graveyard” demeanor. Hey, the odds are still stacked in the Avs’ favor. But they let the Lightning off the hook here, let’s be honest. Now they have to really do it the hard, scary way.
– Von Miller and Brandon McManus were in attendance. It’s good to see the football guys, even the one that doesn’t play for the Broncos, support the team.
– The Avalanche will have two more opportunities to win the series and bring the Cup to Denver. Everyone breathe in and breathe out. It would have been nice at home, but all hope isn’t gone.