Game 2: Lightning 2, Panthers 1 | Tampa Bay leads 2-0
Who was the guy? Honestly, the Tampa Bay athletic-training and medical staffs deserve this win as much as anybody in uniform. Corey Perry was carved open by a puck to the face in warmups. Steven Stamkos left for the dressing room twice after blocked shots, one off his ankle and one off his right hand. Brandon Hagel was practically carried into the dressing room. None of them missed a shift. Throw in quick returns from Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev after taking pucks to the face moments apart late in the first period, and the Lightning tunnel looked more like the Lincoln Tunnel on Thursday night. But if we have to pick a player here, Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the nod. The Tampa Bay goalie stopped 26 of 27 shots, and did not let one uncharacteristic hiccup – Eetu Luostarinen’s second-period slapper trickling through – knock him off his game. Another quietly great effort from a guy whose greatness we’ve all started to take for granted.
What was the key? Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but it’s the Panthers’ especially awful special teams. An 0-for-4 night on the power play now leaves them an unfathomable 0-for-25 with the man-advantage in the postseason. A switch to a five-forward unit generated more sustained zone time and a couple more chances, so if you’re a Florida fan grasping for hope that the dam is about to break, grasp away. But 0-for-25 is 0-for-25. Throw in another power-play goal by Tampa Bay on its first opportunity of the night (Perry with a high tip of a Stamkos feed), and it’s not hard to figure out why the Presidents’ Trophy winners are down 0-2 after two home games.
Key stat: Florida has had 48 minutes and 22 seconds of power-play time in this series. The Colorado Avalanche have eight PPGs in 18 fewer minutes.
Moment it was over: When MacKenzie Weegar went a-wandering in the dying seconds of the game. Weegar, a terrific defenseman who was a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate last season, made a baffling and catastrophic decision when he decided to chase Nikita Kucherov behind the goal line, leaving Ross Colton completely unchecked in the left circle. Weegar’s partner, Gustav Forsling, was already behind the goal with Kucherov and Weegar had no business joining him there. That allowed Kucherov to make a brilliant backhanded leave for the comically open Colton for the bang-bang winner with just 3.8 seconds left in the game. Just a stunning lack of awareness from a usually excellent defender.
ROSS COLTON FROM NIKITA KUCHEROV TO WIN GAME 2 🚨
The Lightning get a last-second goal to go up 2-0 as the series heads back to Tampa.
– The Athletic (@TheAthletic) May 20, 2022
Moment of the game: This contest between two of the most skilled teams in the league has become rather physical rather quickly. More seconds into the game, Perry stood up Weegar at center ice, stared him down and stood there for a few seconds, just cackling in his face. Never mind the meaningless scrums at the end of a blowout loss in the playoffs. That is how you set a tone.
Panthers worry meter: 2 🤯 🤯 🤯 🤯 Down 2-0 to the two-time champs with the next two on the road? Yeah, it’s not ideal.
Lightning worry meter: 🤠 Doesn’t really look like a team running on fumes and going through the motions after two Cup runs, does it?
– Mark Lazerus
Game 2: Blues 4, Avalanche 1 | Series tied 1-1
Who was the guy? David Perron set the tone for St. Louis in the first round with his Game 1 has trick against Minnesota and has now set the tone early in round two again. Perron had a pair of goals, and the timing of both could not have been better to swing the game in St. Louis. Louis’ favor. His first goal was a one-timer on the man advantage with less than a minute left in the second period to give the Blues a momentum swinging two-goal lead. Gabriel Landeskog got the Avs within one in the third but Perron responded halfway through the frame by converting a two-on-one rush chance.
What was the key? Slowing down Colorado’s transition offense.
“Knows how to win” is a cliché at this point, but St. Louis showed the hockey world why that term is given so much respect. Colorado dominated the run of play in Game 1, but resilience under pressure is the mark of an experienced team, and the Blues authored a gritty, complete bounce back performance.
– Harman Dayal (@ harmandayal2) May 20, 2022
St. Louis did an excellent job of closing quickly on Colorado’s defensive zone retrievals and dominating the wall battles which forced the Avalanche into uncharacteristic turnovers and missed exits when trying to beat the first wave of St. Louis. Louis’ forecheck. That, in turn, neutralized Colorado’s typically deadly transition attack – they were not able to generate speed underneath and through the neutral zone. On the few occasions where Colorado did carry the puck with some pace, Colton Parayko was able to stand up at the defensive blue line and use his range to break up plays – St. Louis. Louis had a 6-2 edge in five-on-five high danger chances when their No. 1 defenseman was on the ice.
Key stat: Shots may have been even at 27 apiece at five-on-five, but the Blues defended the middle exceptionally, surrendering just three high danger chances. Not only did St. Louis stymie Colorado’s speed but the in-zone defensive work and commitment were impeccable as well. The Blues consistently outmuscled the Avs down low to nullify the cycle attack. They smothered Colorado physically (which is not easy because the Avs have size up front), did a terrific job of clogging the middle with well-timed defensive sticks and made big blocks when needed – all of which kept the Avalanche to the outside.
Moment it was over: Brandon Saad’s empty netter with less than two minutes remaining made it 4-1. Colorado was pushing with Darcy Kuemper pulled but just could not get setup off the entry. Gabriel Landeskog’s shot was blocked and the Blues were free 2-on-1 from there.
Moment of the game: Two penalties in the offensive zone gifted the Blues an extended five-on-three power-play opportunity. Devon Toews was called for tripping on the forecheck and less than a minute later, Valeri Nichushkin was penalized for goalie interference after he bowled over Jordan Binnington on a shorthanded chance. St. Louis rolled with a five-forward attack on the five-on-three, with Pavel Buchnevich manning the point, and Perron converted with a great one-timer from the left circle.
Blues worry meter: Blu… The Blues should feel good not only about splitting two games on the road but that they were able to thoroughly outclass Colorado in Game 2, as opposed to if Jordan Binnington had simply stolen the game.
Avalanche worry meter: 🙃🙃… St. Louis defended really well, but the Avs made plenty of unforced errors on the breakout that they almost certainly will not repeat in Game 3. Clean that up and Colorado will start feeling much better about its game.
– Harman Dayal
On tap for Friday
Rangers at Hurricanes, 7 pm ET (Hurricanes lead 1-0)
Oilers at Flames, 10:30 pm ET (Flames lead 1-0)
(Photo: Joel Auerbach / Getty Images)