Bolts lose opener to Avs in Finals

by Gary Shelton on June 16, 2022

in general

Point returned to the ice./TIM WIRT

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Once again, we will test their resilience. One more time, we will see if they can punch back.

In their first stride into the Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning stumbled. They lost to a talented Colorado team, 4-3 in overtime, and once again, they will play chase in their best-of-seven series.

And if you think you've heard that before, well, you have.

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Paul scored the first Lightning goal./TIM WIRT

The Bolts are in familiar territory here. In their 12 series over the last three years, they've lost the first game in five of them. In the previous four, of course, they have come back to win.

Remember Toronto? The Bolts were embarrassed 5-0 by the Leafs, but came back to win in seven.

Remember the Rangers? New York humbled the Bolts 6-2 in the opener, but the Lightning came back to win in six.

Remember the Islanders last year? Or Boston and Dallas (in the finals) two years ago. The Bolts have proven that they don't mind taking the first punch of a series.

Now, here they are again, needing to win four of their next six games to win their third straight Stanley Cup. Once again, Andrei Vasilevskiy was less than magical in giving up four goals (he has given up 19 goals in the five opening game losses).

Oh, it won't be easy. Colorado is talented, and quick. They got off 38 shots against the Bolts, the last one coming 83 seconds into overtime by Andre Burakovsky. The Avs had a 3-1 lead after one period.

Sergachev scored a goal./TIM WIRT

“Anytime you lose Game One you’re not feeling great about it," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We obviously dug ourselves a hole. There were stretches of the game I liked and stretches I didn’t. But the right team won the game. We've got better in us. I don't think by a country mile we gave them our best game."

But the Bolts came back in the second period, scoring two goals in 48 seconds. Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev scored the goals. Nick Paul had scored the first Lightning goal.

Neither team scored in the third period as the teams felt each other out.

"The thing is, nothing surprises me," said Cooper. "I knew they were extremely talented and they play the game really well. That did not change. But now you get to watch it up close. The players get a feel for it, for who they’re playing against and some tendencies and how they skate and areas they go to. It’s a learning game for them, too. It’s easy for me to stand there and watch but those guys are in the trenches."

Cooper defended Vasilevskiy, saying he was "probably our best player."

For the Bolts, the game marked the return to the ice of Brayden Point, who was hurt against Toronto.

“Point helps our team," Cooper said. "Was Brayden Point the Brayden Point before his injury? Probably hot. That is his first game in well over a month and we’re playing the fastest team in the league. It’s a tough one to jump into."

The Lightning plays in Denver again on Saturday night at 8 p.m.

Vasilevskiy let in four goals./Tim Wirt

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