DENVER, Colo. — The Tampa Bay Lightning needed a big showing in Game 2 as they sought to avoid falling down 2-0 to the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final.
The crowd in Denver was electric before the game and that carried over to when the puck dropped to start the game a little after 8:15 p.m.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said before the game he wanted Tampa to play a much better first 10 minutes of the game. The Lightning responded a little over a minute into the game...with a penalty giving the Avalanche a power play.
Tampa's penalty-killing unit struggled in the last round and gave up an early goal in Game 1. Staying consistent, with about 10 seconds left in the power play, the Avalanche's Valeri Nichuskin redirected a shot right past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasileskiy to give Colorado a 1-0 lead.
Colorado took a little longer to get to their second goal, but it was obvious early in Game 2, the Avs were simply too fast for Tampa.
The Avalanche offense went right through the Lightning defense and a slapshot from Josh Manson gave Colorado a 2-0 lead.
Tampa Bay was rattled and less than a minute later, Mikhail Sergachev fired the puck into the crowd and the Lightning was hit with a delay of game penalty. The Avalanche then went on a two-minute power play as the game neared the halfway point of the first period.
The Lightning was able to kill off the penalty and couldn't get anything going on the offensive end. Tampa Bay was had just one shot on goal in the first half of the period.
The teams seemed to settle in for a bit until with 6:08 to go in the first period, the Avs Andre Burakovsky easily put a shot by Vasy to give the Avalanche a 3-0 lead.
Cooper called the early performance of the Lightning, "a little disappointing" and said the team needed to get on top of the Avalanche to negate their speed.
After a set of matching penalties and 4-4 action, the Lightning managed to hold on and prevent any further damage as the horn sounded at the end of the first period with Colorado maintaining a 3-0 lead.
The Avalanche's performance made them only the third team in the history of the Cup Final to score at least three first-period goals in each of the first two games, joining the 1981 New York Islanders and the 1936 Detroit Red Wings.
Tampa Bay came out of the first intermission trying to get anything going in the game and were able to slow down the Avs' lines to start the second period. Still, Tampa was struggling to get any type of consistency on the offensive end.
Then the Lightning turned it over right behind the net and Colorado put the proverbial biscuit in the basket to give the Avalanche a 4-0 lead off the stick of Nichuskin.
Tampa Bay went on the power play after an Avs penalty, but Colorado was able to kill the penalty giving up just three shots on goal with none really testing the Avalanche's goalie, Darcy Kuemper.
The stars for Tampa Bay like Stamkos, Kucherov, and others were just unable to get anything going on the offensive end as Colorado's defense was far superior and the Avalanche was playing with an extra gear the Lightning couldn't match through the first half of the game.
Then as the Lightning were making a change to their line, Colorado got a breakaway opportunity and Darren Helm easily beat Vasilevskiy to give the Avalanche a 5-0 lead with 3:30 to go in the second period.
The teams exchanged pleasantries around the Avalanche goal as Colorado had a minor penalty and Tampa was hit with a four-minute penalty, giving the Avs a power play to end the second period.
At the end of the second period, the Colorado crowd was chanting "We want the Cup" as the Avalanche were easily handling the Lightning, 5-0.
As the third period got underway, the Lightning kept Vasilevskiy in between the pipes as Tampa Bay was looking for anything positive to build upon in the final stanza.
Tampa went on the power play just over a minute into the third period hoping to finally get on the goal after failing to do so in the last dozen power plays.
And just as the Lightning were looking for anything to build on, Colorado's Cale Makar hit a slapshot from nearly the exact same place on the ice as Manson did earlier in the game to give the Avalanche a 6-0 lead.
Colorado was then able to kill off the remaining time on the power play as both teams went to full strength.
Not that they needed any more help, but Tampa Bay committed another penalty with 11:41 to go in the third period giving Colorado a power-play opportunity.
And just like in the rest of the game, the Avalanche completely outexecuted Tampa in their zone and Makar slapped a shot easily past Vasy to give Colorado a 7-0 lead.
The only signs of life from Tampa in the third period came with about four minutes to go in the game when players from both teams almost started a large fight. Several players faced off, but things calmed down before both teams got out of control.
Tampa Bay wound up with a two-minute power play after the referees sorted out the penalties. But the Lightning was unable to get anything going and Colorado's penalty-killing unit again did its job.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, it was evident the Avalanche completely outplayed the Lightning in every facet of the game as Colorado took a 2-0 series lead.
The game was Vasy's worst game of his entire career of more than 400 games.
Tampa now limps back home to Amalie Arena needing a HUGE performance in Game 3 to have any shot at coming back in the series. But with Tampa now facing the task of having to win four of the next five games, it looks as though Lightning might not strike a third straight time in the Stanley Cup Final.