DENVER — Looking like by far the better team against the defending champions, the Avalanche overwhelmed the Lightning, 7-0, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Valeri Nichushkin scored his seventh and eighth goals of the playoffs and continued to be the best player on the ice in the final, Game 1 overtime hero Andre Burakovsky beat Andrei Vasilevskiy again and even defensive defenseman Josh Manson and 35-year-old grinder Darren Helm got in on the fun with a goal apiece. Playoff MVP front-runner Cale Makar scored twice in the third period, inciting chants of “We want the Cup!” from a fired up crowd.
Rarely have the Lightning been completely outclassed during this run of postseason success, but they also hadn’t faced an opponent like the Avalanche, who forced them into one uncharacteristic mistake after another. Colorado was dominant in every facet of the game to move two victories away from the franchise’s first title since 2001 and the first by this core led by Nathan MacKinnon.
The Avalanche go to Tampa for Game 3 on Monday night up in the series despite no goals in the series from MacKinnon. They still became just the third team in NHL history to score three-plus goals in the first period of Games 1 and 2 in the final.
The dominant performance started by pouncing on an early mistake by typically reliable Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak when he bobbled the puck at the blue line on one of the game’s first shifts. It was all Avalanche after that.
Their aggressive forecheck led them to draw a penalty on veteran Ryan McDonagh, score on the ensuing power play when Burakovsky fed Nichushkin for his first of the night. It wasn’t his last, and Colorado poured it on with six of the game’s first seven shots and complete territorial domination with much of the game played in the Tampa Bay end.
Tampa Bay fell to 18-2 after a loss since the start of the first round in 2020. The streak of 18 in a row ended in the Eastern Conference final against the Rangers when the Lightning fell behind 2-0 before roaring back, though it’s hard to see seasoned Colorado fall into the same trap.
Darcy Kuemper was barely tested in net for Colorado, picking up the shutout with 17 saves.