The first rematch of the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals was not much of a contest. The Tampa Bay Lightning dominated the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, winning 5-0 on the same ice where Colorado hoisted the Cup last June.
The Avalanche don’t have to wait long to get even, though, when they host Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.
The Lightning have won two straight following disappointing losses at Florida and at home against the lowly San Jose Sharks. Tampa Bay is on a quest to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the fourth straight year but has work to do.
The Lightning are just 13-12-0 on the road this season and are in the midst of playing six of eight games away from home. They started out well with a 3-1 win at Dallas on Saturday night, which was a rematch of the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals in the NHL bubble during the pandemic.
It also served as another bounce-back game for Andrei Vasilevskiy. The goaltender has stopped 58 of 59 shots since the Panthers scored seven on him on Feb. 6. He made 30 saves against Colorado on Thursday and 28 against the Stars.
“Vasy, ever since I’ve been here, every single game, he’s keeping us in it,” said Anthony Cirelli, who had five points in four games last week. “He’s there making huge saves for us when we do screw up a bit.
“He’s the backbone there for us and we know we can count on him, but we have to do a better job in front of him limiting those chances.”
Colorado solved him in the six-game series last year, but not Thursday. The Avalanche are in danger of finishing outside of the playoffs if they don’t turn things around. Injuries have been a big reason they are third in the Central Division, and they keep adding up.
Nathan MacKinnon, Bowen Byram, Valeri Nichushkin and Josh Manson have missed chunks of time and now the reigning Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cale Makar is out. Makar has missed two games after taking a hit to the head from Pittsburgh’s Jeff Carter last Tuesday and there is no timeline for his return.
Makar stayed in the 2-1 loss to the Penguins and after the game indicated the hit was not innocent.
“The ref said apparently we ran into each other. I don’t know how that’s possible,” Makar told The Athletic. “He was coming down the ice. I’ll have to take a look at it. … Maybe he wasn’t looking. But (it was) straight to the side of my head. So that was fun.”
Defenseman Erik Johnson and backup goaltender Pavel Francouz are also out due to lower-body injuries, which means Colorado will call up more bodies from its AHL squad, coach Jared Bednar said after Monday’s practice.
The Avalanche do have MacKinnon, who has been playing well since his return from an upper-body injury that cost him three weeks. He had two goals and an assist in the 5-3 win over Florida on Saturday night.
–Field Level Media