Colorado's leaders "had a great night"

Colorado’s leaders “had a great night”

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar met with the media at Ball Arena on Thursday morning, an off-day for the players, and expressed mixed feelings about his team’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final the night before.

The general message: The Avs are going to keep playing their game.

“We look at that game last night, we liked large portions of it, didn’t like portions of it,” Bednar said. “Some of the things … we can correct. Regardless of how Tampa plays, we have a certain identity that we need to play to be successful. We’ve learned that during the course of this season especially.

“And then for me, it’s just like managing those momentum swings and we’ve been breaking the game down into five-minute increments all year. … It’s something that our guys talk about on the bench and they understand it and they recognize it that when the other team is making a push and we lose a five-minute segment of a period, that we have to bounce back and get it turned in the right direction. And we also talk about specific things that can help us do that.”

Avalanche star center Nathan MacKinnon had five shots and a plus-1 rating. His only point in Game 1 was an assist on Valeri Nichushkin’s goal that gave Colorado a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.

MacKinnon mostly played against Tampa Bay’s second line, led by center Anthony Cirelli and wingers Brandon Hagel and Alex Killorn. That’s the Lightning’s best defensive line.

Bednar isn’t overly interested in trying to avoid MacKinnon and wingers Gabe Landeskog and Valeri Nishushkin going against the Cirelli line. The Avs have last change at home, so Bednar has some say with the matchups at Ball Arena.

“I think it’s inevitable that he’s going to play time against Cirelli if that’s the matchup (Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper) wants,” Bednar said of MacKinnon. “And I wanted to start our starters. You guys know Nate; he’s not afraid or intimidated to go against anybody. In fact, he embraces some of those matches. There are some other matchups that I like equally as good or better. But certainly, I’m not going to interrupt the flow of our game to avoid something until I see that it’s not working.

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