No target whistle. There is no entry point from the nearest official. No cheers from Avalanche loyalists in attend Tampa’s Amalie Arena. It was all for Nazem Kadri’s decisive shot and goal, which essentially won the Stanley Cup in the Colorado Avalanche.
Yes, there are three games to start with. Avalanche has not lost more than two games in the post-season playoff series. They are the newer team. Tampa Bay Lightning now has to beat Colorado three times in a row, including twice in Denver. Tampa had no shots. And all but the award speech from Jared Bednar’s team to come later this week.
What brought the series back to the Rockies with the Stanley Cup needed at every remaining game of the season is a horror movie after hours on Wednesday night. Tampa entered the extra goal with five defensive players. That’s a lot of extra weight on already tired legs. Avalanche dominates overtime. There will always be the problem of not happening if Colorado leads 3-1, refusing to turn the championship in favor of the best of the 3.
The winning moment came with less than eight minutes left in the first extra time. Kadri, who hasn’t played since he broke his thumb a shot from Edmonton Oiler Evander Kane on June 4, found a seam through Tampa’s defense for a sneak and sure shot into the net. Tampa goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy played superbly in extra time, prolonging the pain of defeat for as long as humanly possible.
Kadri’s shot beat Vasilevskiy seven-hole, between the arm and leg, blocker-side. The puck’s trajectory sent it into the top of the net, finding mysterious lodging in between the meshing and back bar. Vasilevskiy is sprawled down on the ice, and it wouldn’t have been shocking to see the Russian make another phenomenal save. No one close could find the puck, although some faces of cheer and anguish in the crowd tell the entire story. On the ice, the first player to make clear he knows the puck is in the net is Colorado defenseman Bowen Byram, who frantically pointed to the rubber, alerting the official standing inches from it.
The realization slowly matriculated through the arena and set in on television. One of the most important goals of the season started with a whimper. I can’t remember a goal of that magnitude, a clincher in Stanley Cup, where almost everyone loses the puck. Shots that hit the crossbar and go out of the net are common. Pucks stuck in plain sight are not.
Wile E. Coyote’s aerial camera easily displayed the evidence to anyone who doubted the outcome. The overtime goal is a microcosm of this streak. Tampa is only one step behind Colorado. This was ingrained in most of the four games between the teams. The Lightning has proven to be Eastern Conference class, and the path to the three peatlands is now nearly impossible thanks to a goal that almost no one can capture.