DENVER (AP) — Gabriel Landeskog, Devon Toews and Valeri Nichushkin scored for Colorado, and the Avalanche withstood a last-minute blitz by Tampa Bay to beat the Lightning 3-2 on Thursday night.
Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point scored for Tampa Bay, which pulled goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for an extra skater with just over three minutes remaining but could not get the puck past Darcy Kuemper again. “I think we had a good plan,” Landeskog said. “Everyone was in the right positions and we were giving them a whole lot of looks. In those situations, the scary ones are kind of the wrist shots from the top. You’re trying to make sure that Kemps could see them. I think he did a good job of fronting those pucks and everybody did a good job of staying in position. We were tired at the end, but at that point it’s just empty the tank.”
Returning from the All-Star break, Colorado won for the 11th time in 12 games overall and extended its franchise-record home points streak to 22 games (20-0-2). “Our preparation over the break, and once we came back and had a couple of practices, it really showed up tonight,” Kuemper said. “We had an unbelievable start and we were ready to go and that’s a credit to everybody for practicing hard and getting our game back right away and being ready to go.”
In a matchup between two of the NHL’s top teams, the Lightning cut their deficit to 3-2 on a goal by Point at 15:54 of the second period. Mikhail Sergachev sent a lead pass to Point, who streaked into the Colorado zone ahead of two defenders and wristed a shot past Kuemper.
Colorado attacked the Tampa Bay zone aggressively from the outset, scoring twice in the opening minutes and getting 24 shots off in the first period to just 10 by the Lightning.
Landeskog got the Avalanche on the board with a backhand tip-in off a feed from Mikko Rantanen. Toews made it 2-0 at 6:16 by flipping the puck over Vasilevskiy’s blocker after a cross-ice pass from Nazem Kadri.
Tampa Bay, which was down two goals before putting a shot on Kuemper, answered with a goal by Kucherov at 10:45 of the first. But the Avalanche restored their two-goal lead at 1:56 of the second when Nichushkin wristed a shot past Vasilevskiy at the end of a 2-on-1 rush.
“Clearly, we were very slow and mismanaged the puck (early),” Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “A team like that will make us pay and they certainly did. Unfortunately, we dug ourselves a hole, but we did start to find a little bit more of a game that we like to play. Two good teams fighting for every inch out there.”
NOTES: The game was a homecoming for Tampa Bay defenseman Cal Foote, who was born in Denver while his father, Adam, played for the Avalanche. … There’s a chance Avalanche C Nathan MacKinnon, sidelined since sustaining a concussion and facial fracture in a collision during a game Jan. 26 against Boston, could return Sunday against Dallas. … Colorado swept the two-game season series.
Lightning: Play at Arizona on Friday night.
Avalanche: Visit the Dallas Stars on Sunday.
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