TAMPA, Fla. – Denver may be the Mile High City, but the Avalanche were playing downhill in Game 2 seemingly since the pregame warmup.
Alas, all the Lightning can do now is flush it and look forward to coming home for Games 3 and 4. Coach Jon Cooper said as much following the 7-0 debacle Saturday night, the franchise’s most lopsided playoff defeat.
“You’re better off just throwing this one away and regrouping for the next one,” he said. “Get over what happened (Saturday night) and put a better step forward (Monday night).”
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champs certainly know how to put a better step forward. They have shown that time and time again since the beginning of the 2020 postseason in the Toronto bubble.
The Lightning are a team with immense pride to go with their leadership and talent. Win Game 3 at Amalie Arena on Monday night (8:00, ABC), and, all of a sudden, the complexion of this Cup final is altered.
“You have to see it as an opportunity,” said Victor Hedman. “Coming off two losses, it’s never easy, but at the end of the day we’re in the Stanley Cup final and we are here for a reason.”
Of course, Colorado has a 2-0 series lead for a reason. Hedman knows that and every other player in the room knows that. If the Lightning are to get back into the series – and make no mistake, this has a far, far different look and feel than the 2-0 deficit they faced against the Rangers – then things are going to have to change, and rapidly so.
After all, the Avalanche came out like a house of fire Saturday night and had three goals on the board before the Lightning had three shots on Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
The Avs never let up on the gas while the Bolts appeared to be out of gas. Pushback was nowhere to be found from those in white and blue jerseys as the ice, and scoreboard, continued to tilt in one direction.
“Is it going to happen at times, yeah, it is,” said Cooper. “You just hope it doesn’t happen in the Stanley Cup final. I am not questioning our team. They are ballers in there.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 100th career playoff game was far from a milestone moment. Well, there was a milestone. It’s just not one to hang his mask on as the seven goals allowed were more than in any of his previous 99 playoff games. Everybody shared in the misery, though, as Vasy was under assault from the get-go.
“We left him out to dry,” said Steven Stamkos.
Nobody was blameless for the Game 2 disgrace when only two forwards (Corey Perry, Nick Paul) had more than one shot on goal. Nikita Kucherov did not have any on a night the team had all of 16. We can go on and on. Instead, the focus needs to shift to Game 3 when the Lightning will have yet another opportunity to show how resilient they are.
For their part, the Avs have set themselves up nicely. A team that is 14-2 this postseason and has won each of its seven games on the road, has no intent on easing up on the pedal. Confidence is contagious and Colorado is overflowing with it about now. The Lightning, who have won their last seven at Amalie Arena, need to find a way to at least throw a curve into what has been a remarkable exhibition of north-south skating by their opponent.
“We have to find a way to slow them down,” said Stamkos. “Let’s go home and see what happens next game. That’s all you can do.”