DENVER — Overtime decided the first battle of the storms, and the snow came out on top.
André Burakovsky destroyed a one-timer from Valeri Nichushkin that sailed by the outstretched glove of Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky, and the Avalanche stung the reigning champions 4-3 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“I mean, it feels amazing,” Burakovsky said after the game to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan. “I think we really battled through this whole game. We had a mental breakdown in the second period but bounced back in the third. Awesome job by the boys!”
Colorado came into the series with the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning 12-2 in this year’s postseason, with sweeps over Nashville in the first round and Edmonton in the Western Conference Finals.
The goal halted what had been an impressive comeback attempt from the Lightning, as they battled back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to tie the contest in the second period, forcing the eventual overtime.
Nichushkin, Gabriel Landeksog (who scored the first goal of the game) and Mikko Rantanen all recorded two points on the evening, Artturi Lehkonen notched his seventh goal of the playoffs and Darcy Kuemper recorded his first win behind the pipes after missing most of the Western Conference Finals due to an upper-body injury. The Avalanche goaltender looked shaky early on, giving two questionable goals, but rebounded to make 20 saves in the winning effort.
Landeskog scored in the first period off a juicy rebound. Said the Avs captain: “The shot was able to squeeze through past Vasilevsky, and…I almost missed it.
“Obviously, [it’s] a good feeling [to score the first goal of the Finals].
He subsequently went into detail regarding his nerves entering his first Cup Final.
“I hope I’m not alone, but I was pretty nervous all day and coming off of warmups, the fans were amazing. You’re trying to enjoy the moment as much as you can, but you’re human, and the nerves are there. I think that’s okay; you just gotta deal with it, and I thought as a team we did a good job with that tonight.”
The Lightning, looking to become the first three-peat Stanley Cup Champion in 40 years, received goals from Nick Paul, Ondrej Palet, and Mikhail Sergachev. While Vasilevsky stopped 34 of 38 shots, he allowed three goals in the opening period, the first time he has ever done so in his postseason career. Game 2 is set to take place in Denver tomorrow night.
Landeskog beats Vasilevsky
Nichushkin fires a wrister by Vasilevsky, who gave up his first five-hole goal of the playoffs.
Nick Paul puts Tampa Bay on the board.
The Avs entered Game 1 14 for 45 (31.1 percent) on the powerplay. Then came a massive opportunity. Lightning forward, Mikhail Sergachev and TB center Anthony Cirelli were both nailed for tripping, giving the Avs a 5-on-3 powerplay. Artturi Lehkonen subsequently lit the lamp, deflecting a shot from Rantanen.
Nikita Kucherov makes an incredible pass to Ondrej Palat, who knocked the puck by a stretched Kuemper to make it a 3-2 game.
48 seconds later, Mikhail Sergachev ties up the game at 3.