By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Sports Writer
DENVER (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t the ones who looked like the two-time defending champions in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night.
The Colorado Avalanche, playing for the first time in nine nights, built a 2-0, 3-1 lead in the first period by hitting pucks to get past the otherworldly goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had allowed just 2.27 goals per game in these playoffs.
Then Colorado, now 13-2 in the playoffs, withstood a Tampa Bay rally to prevail 4-3 on Andre Burakovsky’s goal 1:23 after overtime.
The winning goal came after a bad turnover by Mikhail Sergachev, whose goal in the second period tied the score at 3.
Home teams have won 64 consecutive games in the Cup final when they lead by two or more goals, according to ESPN. The last team to blow a two-goal lead and lose was the New York Rangers against Vancouver in 1994.
The rush peppered reigning playoff MVP Vasilevskiy with plenty of pucks in the first period, and Ball Arena was great, and those $1,000 tickets looked like bargains.
Avalanche scored a whopping 65 goals in 14 playoff games to reach the Stanley Cup Final (their 6.46 scoring average is the best in the playoffs in 30 years) and scored two more goals in the first 10 minutes of the first period.
The two-time defending champions’ pedigree appeared with Ondrej Palat and Sergachev scoring goals less than a minute apart in the second period against Darcy Keumper, who was playing his first game since May 31 against Edmonton, to tie things up at 3 .
It stayed that way until 1:23 of extra time.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper insisted Vasilevskiy was not to blame for the loss, suggesting that no one in a Lightning sweater outplayed his goalie, who saved 22 straight shots before Burakovsky’s game-winning shot eluded him. left skate.
The Avalanche’s legs were quick and fresh in their first game in nine days and their first Stanley Cup appearance in 21 years.
Add in the altitude and attitude of the Avalanche, maybe some crushed ice and definitely uneven play early on from Vasilevskiy, who allowed uncharacteristic goals like the one Valeri Nichuskin passed him in the first half. That puck was the first to go through Vasilevskiy’s legs all postseason.
These Avalanche may be the upstarts, but they’re not freaking out about having to dethrone the two-time defending champions to hoist the Lord Stanley Cup.
His confidence, like the thin air in Mile High City, is through the roof.
“I mean, why not?” said captain Gabriel Landeskog, whose goal less than eight minutes into the game opened the scoring. “We’re in the Stanley Cup Final. We’ve earned this spot. We put in a lot of work. Obviously, we have a lot of respect for these guys, but not too much.”
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