Avs Roll Lightning To Take 2-0 Series Lead

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If there was any question about whether Colorado would show any nerves under the pressure of the Stanley Cup Final, that has been answered two games into the series. In emphatic fashion. Fueled by a thunderous home crowd, the Avs stunned the Lightning and netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy early in Game 2 on Saturday, going up 3-0 on goals by Valeri Nichushkin, Josh Manson and Andre Burakovsky over the first 15 minutes of ice time. Colorado built their lead with a relentless offensive push, putting up 11 attempts against Vasilevskiy compared to Tampa Bay’s mere five attempts against Darcy Kuemper.

That early flurry of action for Colorado set the tone for a Game 2 which almost entirely lacked any drama. Even after the Lightning had gone down 5-0 heading into the third period, Colorado still had its foot on the gas, with Cale Makar ripping two goals over the final 20 minutes of regulation to give Colorado a 7-0 win. This will be one to sleep off for the Lightning, who have just shy of 48 hours to rebound from the embarrassing defeat.

Colorado Avalanche 7 Tampa Bay Lightning 0 (Colorado leads Stanley Cup Final 2-0)

Andrei Vasilevskiy joined the history books in ways he probably did not want, as his six combined goals allowed in the first periods of Game 1 and 2 are the second-most to be surrendered across the first two periods of the Stanley Cup Final – a feat only worsted by George Hainsworth in 1936 (gas cost 19 cents per gallon back then, if you were wondering). Vasilevskiy also became just the 13th goalie in NHL history (and second since 1985) to surrender at least seven goals in a Stanley Cup Final game.

While these first two games have not gone Tampa Bay’s way, we have already seen the back-to-back defending champs come back from a 2-0 series deficit earlier this postseason, in the ECF against the Rangers. We’ll see if a shift in home ice helps jump Tampa Bay back on track come Game 3 on Monday. It sometimes seems to take a couple of games in a given series for Vasilevskiy to find his mojo. Still, he was absolutely destroyed in Game 2 and even for an athlete of Vasilevsky’s quality, this one could have lingering mental effects.

-- Vasilevskiy might have been pummeled on repeat, but Darcy Kuemper had a relatively easy go of things, with the offensive flow rarely threatening his crease. Once the Avs scored on Nichushkin’s second goal of the game, which put Colorado up 4-0 in the second period, Kuemper more/less had the contest on coast. This was an even sharper performance out of Kuemper than what we saw in Game 1, when he allowed three goals in his first appearance since the end of May (an upper-body injury had kept him sidelined). He has played very respectable hockey in the Stanley Cup Final even despite his rehab layoff. This was Kuemper's first shutout of the playoffs.

-- Valeri Nichushkin scored a goal on power-play just shy of three minutes into the first period to begin Colorado’s three-goal blitz to open Game 2. He would thrill the crowd once more with a second goal just after the start of the second period. That one ratched the Avs up to a 4-0 advantage. Nichushkin is now up to eight goals for the postseason, including five over his last four playoff games stretching back to the WCF.

-- Cale Makar also scored two goals in the big Game 2 win, though his goals came in the third period, with Tampa Bay already down big on the scoreboard. Makar did not have a two-goal performance this postseason prior to Saturday.

-- Josh Manson and Andre Burakovsky are both now up to three goals for the postseason after scoring goals in respective order after Nichushkin opened Colorado’s offensive show in the first period.

-- Darren Helm added to Tampa Bay’s misery with a second-period goal of his own, one which gave Colorado a strong 5-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation. This was Helm’s second goal of the postseason after he put in seven for the regular-season campaign.

-- While Nichushkin was the flashiest star in Colorado’s dominant Game 2 win, Alex Newhook and Mikko Rantanen also cashed in with a combined five assists to help facilitate the offense. Newhook’s assists came on each of the first two goals of the game while Rantanen notched his on each of the next two goals before wrapping up with an assist on the second of Cale Makar’s two third-period scores.

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Game 3 awaits on Monday as the back-to-back defending champion Lightning look to avoid falling behind 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final