Welcome to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Avalanche lead the best-of-7 series 2-0 and have yet to lose on the road this postseason, owning a 7-0 record. The Lightning lost the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final to the New York Rangers but rallied to win in six games, starting with Game 3 at home.
NHL.com VP, Editor-in-Chief Bill Price is at Amalie Arena in Tampa for the sights, sounds and action from Game 3.
8:15 p.m. ET
After an emotional pregame show that featured an inspirational video starring wrestler Titus O’Neil, “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC blaring in Amalie Arena, and a stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the Lightning’s own Sonya Bryson-Kirksey, we are ready to go here.
The Lightning, already down 2-0, will try to get back into the series without forward Brayden Pointwho played in Games 1 and 2, but missed the 10 previous games and is out tonight.
The Avalanche will be without forward Andre Burakovsky for this one, and forward Nazem Kadri remains out.
Missing Burakovsky is a big blow for the Avalanche; he had three points (two goals, one assist) through the first two games, including the OT goal in Game 1.
One interesting note from the goalie situation is the fact that Andrei Vasilevskiy did not take part in the Lightning’s full team morning skate today. There is still plenty of debate among the media and fans as to whether he should have been pulled after two periods in Game 2. Trailing 5-0, it was clear the Lightning were not going to win Game 2, and it could have gotten him some rest. Maybe he got that rest this morning. Clearly for the Lightning to have any chance, he needs to be better than he was in Games 1 and 2.
The Lightning also need to make life much tougher for Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemperwho has barely been tested in the first two games.
I think we all expect the Lightning to come out firing tonight, but let’s not forget, after losing Games 1 and 2 to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, they trailed 2-0 in the second period before finally waking up.
I’m not sure they can afford to fall behind to the Avalanche, who are two wins away from winning the Cup for the first time since 2001.
7:40 p.m. ET
The teams are on the ice for warmups, and Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri are not out there for the Avalanche, a good indication they won’t play tonight.
Lightning forward Brayden Point, deemed a game-time decision by coach Jon Cooper, is also missing from warmups. Riley Nash is dressed, so don’t expect to see Point either.
For all you Broadway fans, the Lightning are dipping into musical “Cats” to get the crowd pumped up. They showed a video of the past two Cup runs set to “Memories.” As long as it’s not from the movie with James Corden, I’m OK with that decision.
This is the first time I have been here for a game — other than the 2018 NHL All-Star Game — so I need to get used to the loud thunder sound effect they play every so often. It’s scared the hell out of me the first two times, but I’ll be ready going forward.
A big thumbs up to the Amalie Arena concession stands. As part of the media meal, we got a voucher for certain food stands. I ended up getting a bucket of chicken marsala. Pretty, pretty good.
7:20 p.m. ET
We are about 45 minutes from puck drop, and though the Lightning are down 2-0, you can bet this crowd will be loud. In fact, every fan has been given some sort of plastic noisemaker. They look like the game we used to play as kids with the rubber ball and the wooden paddle — see the scene in “Blazing Saddles.”
I would assume the Lightning fans are “preparing” for the game at local watering holes because there are not that many people here right now, but judging by the amount of people on the streets in Tampa a few hours before the game, it will be packed.
When we go to games, we like to be on the lookout for random hockey jerseys, and a few minutes ago we spotted a guy in a Billy Smith Islanders jersey. Pretty impressive.
Warmups are a few minutes away so we should get an indication of who is in and who is not shortly.
6:45 p.m. ET
Stanley Cup fever is alive and well here in Tampa, with “Go Bolts” banners all over the city, from businesses to high schools to hotels. Still, there is a sense of uneasiness with the Lightning not only down 2-0 but coming off a 7-0 loss in Game 2.
Speaking of fever, it’s rather hot here on the Gulf Coast. And unlike Denver, it’s not a dry heat. It’s about 90 degrees and humid, perfect hockey weather. Ha.
If you Lightning fans are looking for a few good omens: There was some thunder and lightning in the Tampa area today, though I’m told that’s pretty much every afternoon around here. But here’s a bigger one: As we were leaving the media hotel, “Back to Life,” by Soul II Soul. Hmm.
Back to the hockey, the biggest thing to look for pregame is the status of Lightning forward Brayden Point. He played in Games 1 and 2 of the Final after missing 10 games because of an injury sustained in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he was not on the ice this morning and is a game-time decision , according to coach Jon Cooper.
For the Avalanche, coach Jared Bednar says Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri are day to day. Neither forward was on the ice Monday morning, and Burakovsky was actually traveling from Denver to Tampa today.
Warmups will start in about 45 minutes, so we may get a better idea of where things stand with all three players.