DENVER | Nathan MacKinnon was talking about a clash between the NHL's top two teams between the Avalanche and the Lightning. MacKinnon is not just a great hockey player, he is also a good analyst
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For this first game of the Stanley Cup Final, the Avalanche signed a dramatic 4-3 victory in overtime against the Lightning yesterday at the Ball Arena.
Andre Burakovsky scored the winning goal in the 83rd second of the fourth period. The Austrian took advantage of a perfect pass from Valeri Nichushkin to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy with a quick one-timer. The Lightning goaltender could do absolutely nothing about this game.
In the shadows within a team that is full of talented players, Nichushkin drew the reflectors to him during this first meeting of the final. The former Dallas Stars had a strong game with a goal and an assist, but also six shots on net.
“Val (Valeri) is strong as a horse, everyone can see that,” defender Bowen Byram said. He works so hard. He skates well, it is difficult to counter him. He is also very good at forechecking. He's been incredible since the start of the playoffs and he had a very big game again tonight. »
Used mainly on the right wing alongside Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, Nichushkin spent a crazy time in opposing territory. He finished the game with eleven shots attempted.
"Nichushkin received a huge reward with a superb assist on our winning goal," said winger Mikko Rantanen, author of two assists in this triumph. He scored a goal, he spent valuable time shorthanded and he fired tons of shots. He is really an important player for us. »
Like the Western final against the Oilers, MacKinnon also recalled that he is on a mission to obtain a first ring. On the score sheet, he got just one assist, but he made several spectacular plays thanks to his speed and incredible sense of anticipation.
The Avalanche have not flinched despite the return of the Stanley Cup champions of the past two years. After a period, Jared Bednar's team seemed alone on the ice with a 3-1 lead. But you should never make the mistake of believing the Lightning for dead.
Nikita Kucherov sounded the visitors' alarm clock in the second period. Number 86 put the NHL's best defense duo, Devon Toews and Cale Makar, to sleep with a skilful feint before delivering a precise pass for Ondrej Palat. The Czech easily beat Darcy Kuemper on this game.
Less than a minute later, Mikhail Sergachev hit the target too. From 3 to 1, it was 3 to 3.
Despite the Lightning's rapid comeback, the Avalanche controlled their emotions to stay in the game.
Jon Cooper said after the Rangers were eliminated in Game 6 of the Eastern Finals on Saturday in Tampa that there was a good chance of seeing Brayden Point back in uniform for the start of the Finals. Cooper hadn't told a lie.
Point was indeed in uniform for this first game against the Avalanche. He found himself at the center of the third line alongside Ross Colton and Nick Paul. With a lower-body injury in Game 7 of the first round against the Maple Leafs in Toronto, Point had missed the last ten games.