DENVER, Colo. — The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the ice Wednesday night in Denver looking to take another step toward immortality and move one win closer to three-peating as Stanley Cup champions.
The puck dropped between the Lightning and Avalanche just after 8:15 p.m. Eastern Time and both teams immediately started trying to feel each other out as the first period got underway.
In between the pipes, Tampa Bay again had Andrei Vasilevskiy trying to stop the Avs while Colorado had Darcy Kuemper at goal. Both goalies were able to get quick saves in the first five minutes of the opening period.
The action was slow to get rolling as the teams had 10 faceoffs through the first five minutes.
The Lightning went on the power play with just less than 15 minutes to go in the first period. But Colorado's penalty-killing unit was able to keep Tampa off the scoreboard as both teams went back to full strength.
Then the Avalanche started rolling when left winger Gabriel Landeskog put Colorado on the scoreboard with a 1-0 lead with 12 minutes to go in the first period.
Less than two minutes later, Colorado got on the scoreboard again when right winger Valeri Nichushkin powered a shot right past Vasilevskiy, giving the Avalanche a 2-0 lead halfway through the first period.
As the clock ticked down in the first period, Tampa Bay looked slow as Colorado was skating all around the Lightning.
But with a little more than seven minutes to go in the period, Lightning left winger Nicholas Paul snuck a shot just past Kuemper's wide side, putting Tampa Bay on the board and narrowing the lead to 2-1.
Colorado came right back and went on the power play with four minutes left in the first period. And then, Lightning struck twice as Tampa Bay was assessed another penalty and Colorado took a two-man advantage for 1:33.
The Avalanche took advantage of the two-man advantage and scored the third goal in the period to take a 3-1 lead. The third goal was scored by Artturi Lekhonen of the Avalanche.
Colorado continued to have a power play for another 50 seconds in the first period but wasn't able to add to the lead before both teams were back at full strength.
As the final seconds ticked off in the first period, Tampa Bay was clearly the slower team on the ice and the Avalanche took advantage of every opportunity they were given and carried a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
Tampa Bay came out swinging at the beginning of the second period, literally. After almost four minutes of action, both the Avalanche and Lightning were assessed roughing penalties as tempers flared behind the Avalanche net. It led to a 4-4 matchup for two minutes.
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Both teams went back to play at full strength with around 14 minutes left in the second period. But Colorado was hit with another penalty shortly thereafter for too many men on the ice, putting Tampa back on the power play.
But just like in the first period, Tampa was unable to get anything going on their power play and the teams went back to full-strength action as the teams hit the halfway point of the game.
Colorado had a one-timer shot, but Vasilevskiy was able to smother the shot and keep the Avalanche from adding to their lead.
After going back and forth, Tampa was able to get another goal when Nikita Kucherov fired a centering pass to Ondrej Palat who tipped the puck into the net past Kuemper.
An interesting note, the NHL said Kucherov now is third all-time among active players for career points in the Stanley Cup Final. If he is able to pick up four more points, he would take over first place on the list.
Then, before Lightning fans could catch their breath, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev fired a shot past the Avs goalie to tie the game at 3-3. Tampa scored both goals within 48 seconds in the second period.
Colorado kept the puck on the Lightning's end and worked over and over trying to get one past Vasilevskiy, but couldn't get one past him as the final seconds of the period counted down.
At the end of the second period, the score remained tied, 3-3. Colorado had 26 shots to Tampa Bay's 16 through two periods. The Avalanche came out flying in the first period, but Tampa refused to go away and kept grinding to earn both goals.
As the final period loomed, neither team appeared to have an advantage as fans of both teams sat on the edge of their seats hoping their team can capture the first game of the series.
With neither team able to gain an advantage through the first six minutes of the third period, then Colorado was assessed a high-sticking penalty, putting Tampa Bay on the power play for two minutes.
But, as they had done all night, Colorado's penalty-killing unit was able to clamp down on the Lightning and both teams went back to full strength with around 12 minutes to go in the third.
Colorado started playing with a little more urgency as the clock ticked under nine minutes and both teams continued to exchange shots on goal, trying anything they could to nab the go-ahead goal.
Then with less than two minutes to go in the third period, the Avalanche went on the power play when Tampa Bay was hit with a delay of game penalty.
Tampa Bay's penalty-kill unit came on the ice and was able to kill most of the penalty as the horn sounded to end the period. With the teams tied, fans were treated to free playoff hockey with overtime.
The NHL said the Bolts vs. Avs game hitting overtime was the 95th OT game in Stanley Cup Final history and the 20th overtime of a Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. The last time a Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final went to overtime was in 2014, which ended 4:36 into the extra period.
But less than two minutes into the final period, Colorado's Andre Burakovsky put one right by Vasilevskiy to give the Avalanche the victory, 4-3.
Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final will be on Saturday at 8 p.m. on ABC Action News.