Usually, even in blowouts, you can point to one or two players on a team and say that they had a good game. It might be the guy who only played 7 minutes, but there is usually at least one. That was not the case in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 7-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game Two of the Stanley Cup Final. It was truly a team effort in the loss as they were outclassed at every turn by the home team. Valeri Nichushkin and Cale Makar scored twice while Darren Helm, Josh Manson, and Andre Burakovsky added one goal a piece for the Avalanche. Darcy Kuemper had an easy 16-save shutout while Andrei Vasilevskiy set a new career-high in goals allowed with 7 on 30 shots faced.
One would think that after Game One the Lightning would have learned a few things:
- How to adjust to the speed of the Avalanche
- Don’t take dumb penalties to give Colorado more room to operate.
Well, based on their performance in Game Two they learned those lessons about as well as I learned Calculus. It was all Colorado all night long they posted three goals in the first period and dominated all aspects of the game except for penalties taken.
Often you can pull some positives out of even the worst periods. On Saturday, not so much. Colorado absolutely motorboated the Lightning in the opening frame. Not only did they control the possession aspects, they finished things off with goals from Valeri Nichushkin (power play), Josh Manson (on a two-on-one), and Andre Burakovsky (wide open net).
Valery Nichushkin (Andre Burakovskiy, Alex Newhook) Power Play, 1-0 Avs
Josh Manson (Andrew Cogliano, Alex Newhook) 2-0 Avs
Andre Burakovsky (Mikko Rantanen, Devon Toews) 3-0 Avs
The bleeding stopped a little even with a little bit of 4-on-4 after Corey Perry and Darcy Kuemper received matching minors after a little tussle over the ownership of Perry’s hockey stick.
The eye test matched the stats test as Colorado was the better team all over the board at 5v5: 15-8 in shot attempts, 9-4 in unblocked shot attempts, 3-0 high-danger chances, and 85.56% of expected goals.
The second period started with a little line shuffling as Nikita Kucherov, Anthony Cirelli, and Brayden Point were thrown together and Alex Killorn found himself on a line with Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat. All that seemed to do was delay the scoring a bit as it took Colorado almost five minutes to score in the second period.
Their fourth goal came on a turnover from Ondrej Palat, as his pass behind Vasilevskiy was picked off and Nichushkin buried the centering pass from Mikko Rantanen.
Valeri Nichushkin (Mikko Rantanen) 4-0 Avs
A power play for the Lightning did go wanting, but did at least generate a few shots on net and a little bit of a break for Vasilevskiy. The fourth line followed it up with a solid shift, but despite spending some time in the Colorado zone, they couldn’t score.
The Avs had a few shots robbed by Vasy, who had a stellar glove save to deny Nichushkin a hat trick, but he couldn’t stop Darren Helm (really, Darren Helm?) who snapped a wrister off the rush past the Lightning netminder to make it 5-0.
Darren Helm (Logan O’Connor) 5-0 Avs
Being back in the Western Conference brings out the Perry-ness of Corey Perry as he got into his second disagreement in the Colorado crease, this time wrestling with JT Compher. Perry picked up a roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while Compher went to the box for hooking. Hey, the Lightning actually killed the penalty off. Progress!
It looked like the Lightning get a chance to redeem themselves a bit with an early third period power play, but even with an extra skater they managed to give up an odd-man rush and Cale Makar made it 6-0 with a ripper that beat Vasy on the blocker side.
Cale Makar (unassisted) Shorthanded Av’s 6-0
At the point where one would look at the clock and say, “Really, there are still 11 minutes to go in this game?” Makar added a power play goal to make it 7-0.
Cale Makar (Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon) Power Play, 7-0
As might be expected, things took on a bit of truculent ending following the goal. A line scrum led to a bevy of players from both sides ending their night a little earlier than expected:
Nichushkin, Manson, Artturi Lehkonen, Anthony Cirelli, Steven Stamkos, Erik Cernak, and Alex Killorn all received double minors for roughing with Jack Johnson also getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that led to another Lightning power play where they didn’t score.
Mercifully, the game did eventually end and the Lightning left Colorado in their most precarious position in the last three postseasons. Even more so than when facing elimination against the Islanders or Maple Leafs. Even more so than being down 2-0 against the Rangers in their last series. There was almost nothing good they could salvage from the first two games against the Avalanche and they head back to Tampa with a lot more questions than answers.
Yet, it there is any team that can figure it out, it’ll be this team. The sun may be getting low on this series, but it hasn’t set yet.