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Kuemper shines and Kadri steals the show as Avs win epic Game 4

Jesse Montano Avatar
June 23, 2022

All the way back in Round 1, I was talking with a fellow media member and they mentioned how much they love dramatic Game 4s. It’s almost always a team looking to go up 3-1, playing a team desperately trying to even the series.

That was exactly what we had tonight. The Colorado Avalanche had successfully defended home ice in the first two games, and the Lightning won their first game back at home in Game 3. This was easily the biggest game of the playoffs for either team, and they both delivered a phenomenal contest. 

The game got off to a fast, confusing start. Right as the puck dropped, the Lightning were absolutely flying and throwing any, and everything on net. Kuemper made a couple of big saves in close before the puck was kicked out high.

A Tampa Bay shot from the point hit Kuemper up high and in the process, knocked his helmet off. It has always been my understanding that this is the only equipment malfunction that triggers an automatic whistle. Apparently not. 

After his helmet hit the ice, Anthony Cirelli got two whacks at the puck before putting it in. The official down low emphatically signaled that it was a good goal, and would hear none of the Avs’ protests. 

It was a terrible start for the Avalanche. Just the exact opposite of what you wanted, and the crowd was going absolutely bananas. That helped the Lightning continue their push for a shift or two, but credit to Colorado, I thought they were able push back and stop the immediate bleeding. 

They were able to get some zone time, but the Lightning were getting in front of every puck the Avs put towards the net. It was a battle in the offensive zone. 

The Lightning really controlled the first, I didn’t think the Avs were *that* bad, but the Bolts were just better. Still though, the period ended with the same one-goal margin it (basically) started with. 

Early in the middle frame, the Avs were able to draw an interference call thanks to some good pressure in the offensive zone. 

The top power play unit controlled play for basically the entire man-advantage. In fact, now thinking back on it… I don’t think the Lightning cleared the zone once.

As the penalty was winding down, Mikko Rantanen threw one on net looking for a rebound, and that’s exactly what he got. The puck rattled around a bit before hitting Nathan MacKinnon’s skate, and trickling over the goal line. The Avs were off and running, and the score was all even. 

From there, the period was pretty even, and the pace picked up. Tampa was continuing to just eat pucks in front of the net, and the Avalanche started settling into their identity. Then like five things went wrong all at once. 

A terrible breakdown in defensive coverage in the neutral zone led to horrible defensive tracking (and gapping) in the d-zone, and then was capped off by a goal that Darcy Kuemper knew right away that he just can’t give up. 

Victor Hedman picked up the puck, skated casually and uncontested into the zone, cut from inside to outside and put a backhand shot onto the far side of the net. 

I don’t know if Kuemper wasn’t expecting it to be somewhat of a floater, but it beat him clean. Those of you that read my work a lot know that I’m typically not as hard on goalies as most. It’s the hardest position in sports to play, and you need a lot of help from your team to be put in a position to succeed. 

Having said that, this goal is unacceptable. The team had a breakdown, and Kuemper needed to bail them out on a VERY savable shot. The Avs were starting to push, and the crowd was tensing up. It was a huge opportunity for Colorado to take some control of this game, and then they just gave it right back. 

Kuemper bounced back to finish the period well, but you could really see the Bolts start to clamp down defensively, and Vasilevsky was doing what he does best. It’s a save the Avalanche really needed. 

2-1 is how the second period ended, so despite the bad goal, the Avs were still in it. 

The third period got off to a very similar-looking start as the second period. Lots of energy from Colorado, and a few decent looks. Then like we’ve seen so many ties during these playoffs, it was the fourth line for the Avalanche that made something happen. 

Darren Helm threw a shot on net from out high, it was deflected by Nico Sturm and kicked out by Vasilevsky. Sturm was able to collect his own rebound and put it back on net and past the Lightning netminder. 

The goal was originally credited to Nico Sturm, but was later determined to have gone off of Andrew Cogliano on its way into the back of the net. Either way, the game was tied early in the final frame. 

The third period was back-and-forth, high-end hockey. Probably as intense of a period as we have seen for the Avalanche to this point. The crowd at Amalie Arena did a good job staying engaged, but you could absolutely feel the tension. 

Darcy Kuemper made an outstanding series of saves late in the frame to keep things even, and Andre Vasilevsky did his job on the other end. This one couldn’t be decided in 60 minutes, extra time was needed. 

That’s when this went from a great game to a special night. 

Overtime started, and that was some of the most (I’m gonna use the word again) intense hockey I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching live. It was two teams determined to not make a mistake, groups that were going to force their opponent to earn their next goal. 

Each goalie had to make a couple of good saves, and each team got a few good looks, but it was the man everyone has been talking about for two weeks that made the play. 

Just a couple minutes after the only “commercial break” of overtime (there are no commercials in OT, but the ice crew cleans the ice at the first stoppage following the 10-minute mark), both teams were going for a line change and it caused some chaos in the neutral zone. 

Darcy Kuemper recognized that the two teams were a bit disorganized and came out of his net to help move the puck up ice in an attempt to catch the Lightning in a change.

The Avs’ goaltender moved the puck up to Artturi Lehkonen, who skated into the neutral zone and hit Nazem Kadri with a picture-perfect pass right on the tape. Kadri, playing with essentially just one had, flew into the zone, made a great move around Mikhail Sergachev and shot the puck far-side. 

Initially, there was no reaction. Vasilevsky laid in the crease and honestly looked like he had the puck underneath him. There was no signal from the ref, and Kadri skated away frustrated, thinking he was stopped on a great opportunity. 

Enter Bo Byram. 

Byram came flying into the zone, screaming and gesturing that the puck was in the net, pointing emphatically at the back bar.

Then it was Lightning Captain Steven Stamkos who skated over, saw the puck pinned between the net and the bar, and removed it before skating off. 

The puck was in, and the game was over. 

Nazem Kadri was the hero again. It was borderline unbelievable. 48 hours ago, the guy couldn’t shoot. We were watching him skate and I was thinking “no shot this guy comes back”, and there he was… the overtime hero. 

Can’t say enough about the job Darcy Kuemper did in net. All the pressure riding on his shoulders to bounce back after a lackluster performance in Game 3, the goal that goes in early on could have completely shaken him, but he battled through. 

He made all the saves he needed to, including an outstanding one near the end of the period, and even became the first goaltender in Stanley Cup Final history to record an assist on an overtime winner. 

Everything about this game for the Avalanche was great. It was a fantastic hockey game, and they came through in the biggest moment, but it all means nothing starting tomorrow. In the same way they had to wipe the slate clean after getting run over last game, they’ll have to do the same thing after this emotional win. 

Nico Sturm put it best after the game…

“We approach it not, ‘How can we win the Cup next game?’ We look at it as ‘How can we win a hockey game next game?”

What a game, what a night. The Avalanche now take a 3-1 series lead back to Denver for Game 5. 

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