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Following an impressive east coast road trip, the Colorado Avalanche had to come home to take on its toughest eastern test yet. The Tampa Bay Lightning rolled into Denver on Wednesday night and two of the NHL’s best teams in the first month of the season put their skills on display.
It was a Colorado-dominated game early on in the first period when the Avalanche jumped out all over the visitors and were creating prime scoring chances. Some great saves by Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy kept the game tied until Colorado’s top line did what it does as well as anyone in the NHL.
Just as a penalty on Tyson Jost was ending, Nathan MacKinnon gathered the puck and flew out of the defensive zone, crossing the blue line with Jost and Gabe Landeskog flanking him. Some fancy dangles and a sweet backhand pass and Landeskog one-timed it home to give Colorado the 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately for Colorado, that lead lasted about 15 seconds because Tampa Bay challenged the play for an offside and after a brief video review it was determined Jost had lifted his leg just before MacKinnon crossed the blue line with the puck, negating the goal and giving the Lightning a little life.
Tampa Bay is the kind of team that takes advantage of second chances and they used the disallowed goal as a springboard to begin taking over the game. It took a while as each team traded very soft penalties through the first and second periods before heading into the decisive final frame for the stalemate to finally break.
Tyson Barrie was called for lifting the stick of a Lightning player and they determined it was hooking. On their third power play of the game, Nikita Kucherov took a cross-ice feed from Steven Stamkos and one-timed it past Semyon Varlamov at 6:24, giving Tampa Bay the 1-0 lead.
Colorado had its chances down the stretch, including breakaways from Nathan MacKinnon (where he might have been hooked but not call was made) and Mikko Rantanen (who failed to get a shot on goal), but nothing was able to beat Vasilevskiy in an early-season battle between two goaltenders having very good starts to their seasons.
The Avalanche were unable to make a substantial push in the final two minutes with the goaltender pulled and despite having some good looks at the empty net, the Lightning came up short in adding to their total. It didn’t end up mattering and the Avalanche fell 1-0 to Tampa Bay.