The Colorado Avalanche hadn’t played in more than a week, so forgive them if they wanted to get a little bit of extra ice time in. It took overtime, and an unlikely hero, but the Avs took a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday.
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Andre Burakovsky scored the game-winner just 1:23 into the extra session, and it was just his second goal of the playoffs. Four different players scored for the Avalanche, who moved to 4-1 in overtime games in these playoffs. Here are three takeaways from Colorado’s Game 1 win.
Burakovsky Shocks Lightning Again
Andre Burakovsky has a knack for scoring big goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning in crucial playoff games. In the Washington Capitals’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2018, he scored two goals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to push the Caps into the Cup Final. He was at it again on Wednesday, scoring the game-winner in overtime to give Colorado the victory in the series opener.
The winning goal was a picture of patience for Burakovsky. After Valeri Nichushkin forced a turnover, J.T. Compher’s shot was saved by Andrei Vasilevskiy. The long rebound went back to Nichushkin, who slid a fantastic pass over to Burakovsky for the goal. He started the game on the second line with Mikko Rantanen and Compher, and that trio combined for a goal and three assists in the win.
Burakovsky is coming off of his best season in Colorado, his third campaign since being traded to the Avalanche before the 2019-20 season. He scored 22 goals and 61 points – both career highs – though he has struggled in the playoffs. Wednesday’s goal was just his second of the postseason, and first since Game 4 against the Nashville Predators in the first round.
Captain Leaves Mark Early in Game 1
Gabriel Landeskog had been waiting a long time for this. The Avalanche star has captained the team since 2012 – just one year after winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. He’d never advanced past the second round of the playoffs until this season, where he’s playing in his first Stanley Cup Final. He finished with a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s victory.
Landeskog didn’t take long to leave his fingerprints on the series opener, notching the first goal of the game and assisting on another in the first period. His goal was a typical Landeskog goal, cleaning up in the blue paint after Tampa goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy couldn’t smother a shot from Rantanen. He assisted on Colorado’s second goal just 1:36 later, forcing a turnover on the forecheck to set up a Nichushkin score.
Landeskog was the second overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and immediately impacted the Avalanche. He played all 82 games in that 2011-12 season, racking up 22 goals and 52 points to easily win the Calder. However, he made the playoffs just once in his first six seasons and didn’t make it out of the first round until 2018-19. He’s in the top 10 of every meaningful statistical list in Avalanche history but is still chasing his first Stanley Cup.
Nichushkin Bounces Back
The Avalanche knew they needed some depth scoring to succeed in this series against the Lightning. They got a good indication that was going to be there from Valeri Nichushkin. The veteran forward has bounced around between lines this season, and he helped two lines score goals on Wednesday. He scored a goal in the first period that gave the Avalanche a 2-0 lead, and assisted on Burakovsky’s game-winner.
The goal was Nichushkin’s sixth of the playoffs, but he had only two in the last nine games. Both of those came in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against the Edmonton Oilers. He had just three assists in the seven games before that. He’s always been a beast on the forecheck, and it was a turnover that he forced that set up the game-winning goal. He also led the Avalanche with six shots on goal.
The victory was the sixth in a row for Colorado. After winning Game 6 to clinch the second-round series against the St. Louis Blues, the Avs swept the Edmonton Oilers in four games in the Western Conference Final. Colorado is also 4-1 in overtime in the playoffs, with the lone loss coming in Game 5 against the Blues. The series continues with Game 2 on Saturday at Ball Arena in Denver.