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Cale Makar and the Colorado Avalanche were not at all interested in revisiting the simmering controversy over how Game 4 ended in overtime.
What was far more important was to consider this: a chance to clinch the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title since 2001. In front of their home fans as well, where ticket prices soared to over 1,300 $ for an upper level seat.
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Friday night in Game 5, Colorado not only has a chance to dethrone two-time defending champion Tampa Bay, but perhaps revive its own dynasty. behind a core of dynamic young players like Makar
“It’s going to be the toughest we’ve had so far,” said Makar, whose team leads 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and is 3-1 in closing games this playoff. . “We have to expect them to obviously bring us everything they have because it’s do or die. We just have to be ready.”
The Lightning weren’t happy with how things ended in overtime Wednesday night. Nazem Kadri, with a thumb injury and all, scored the winning point on a shot that slipped under goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy’s right arm.
Tampa Bay’s complaint: The Avalanche seemed to have too many players on the ice.
A day later, Lightning coach Jon Cooper softened his stance.
“It’s unfortunate, but there’s water under the bridge now,” Cooper said. “That should be one hell of a Game 5.”
LIGHTNING’S JON COOPER DISAGREES WITH GAME 4 GOAL IN OVERTIME: ‘YOU SEE WHAT I WANT’
All Colorado needs is a three-try win — two at home — for its third Stanley Cup title since moving to Denver from Quebec in 1995-96. The Avalanche swept Florida in its inaugural season and captured the No. 2 title in 2001 with a Game 7 win at home against the New Jersey Devils.
At the time, Hall of Fame forward Joe Sakic was leading the charge on the ice.
Now his fingerprints are all over this fast-flying team as GM. He saw five players he picked up just before or during the season combine for five points on Game 4 tying and game-winning goals. Kadri was acquired by Sakic in a deal with Toronto in 2019.
Sakic has assembled this team around playmakers such as Makar, captain Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. They were a big reason why this team is 15-3 in this playoffs and on the verge of knocking out the champions.
“You can see they’re hungry,” said Hockey Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier, who won six Stanley Cup titles as a player and another with the Avalanche as a coach. assistant in 2001. “Landeskog has been in the league for a long time, MacKinnon has been in the league for a long time and now they have a taste and they are about to experience something quite exciting. »
But winning No. 16 won’t be easy. It’s rarely that time of year.
“They’re probably preaching, ‘They never came here. They’re going to be tight “and that’s fair,” said MacKinnon, who scored his first goal of the series on Wednesday. “But we’ll be ready to go. We’ve been great under pressure all playoffs, all season.”
It’s a proud Lightning crew that’s already bounced back. They faced a 2-0 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers before rallying. They also lost 3-2 to Toronto in the first round.
“If there’s one thing I know about this group, it’s that we respond well to adversity,” Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We are a resilient group. We believe in what we have.”
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Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper bounced back from being fired in Game 3 with a 37-save performance Wednesday. He also had an assist on the game-winning goal when he fed the puck to Artturi Lehkonen, who passed it to Kadri. Kuemper became the first goaltender in league history to record an overtime assist in a Stanley Cup Finals game, according to NHL Stats.
“Great awareness by Kuemps,” Landeskog said.
The Game 4 win marked the 15th time this season the Avalanche have rallied for the win after trailing in the third. That total (11 in the regular season, four in the playoffs) is tied for third most in a season in NHL history. The top mark belongs to the Anaheim Ducks, who had 22 in the 2014-15 season.
“Our guys have done a good job focusing on our business and it’s given us success,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. We’re going to continue with that.”