The Tampa Bay Lightning have dug themselves another hole. One that, this time, they may not be able to emerge from.
In Saturday's Game 2, the Colorado Avalanche throttled the two-time defending champions, scoring three goals in the first period, two in the second and two more in the third for a 7-0 triumph, and a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
Valeri Nichushkin continued his breakout performance, scoring twice, while Cale Makar scored on each side of the special teams equation in the third period for his first points of the series.
His shorthanded marker was particularly eye-catching.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 19, 2022
Andre Burakovsky hit the back of the net again after notching the overtime winner in Game 1, while Josh Manson and Darren Helm also had singles as the Avalanche punished the Lightning on the counterattack in what was one of the most lopsided final scores in the history of the Stanley Cup Final.
Most games with 7+ goals in one postseason:
6 – 1985 Oilers
6 – 1984 Oilers
4 – 2022 @Avalanche
4 – 1985 Blackhawks
4 – 1983 Islanders
4 – 1983 Oilers
4 – 1981 Islanders#NHLStats: https://t.co/eT4xFm0QXp #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/PPnDZc76vI
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 19, 2022
Darcy Kuemper handled what little the Lightning were able to muster offensively, making 17 saves for the shutout victory.
Models of resiliency on this stage, the Lightning have only just proven in the last few weeks that they can take a 2-0 series deficit back to Amalie Arena and completely turn a matchup around. The Bolts rattled off four consecutive victories over the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final after dropping the first two games at Madison Square Garden.
But these losses have been different than the ones suffered in New York. The Lightning have been thoroughly out-played by the Avalanche across two games, almost dizzied by what the opposition is doing.
That the Lightning were limited to 28 total shot attempts in Game 2 is a remarkable and damning illustration of how little of the puck they have seen across two games in Colorado.
"They're playing at a very elite level right now," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said in the post-game. "We are not."
Meanwhile the Avalanche continue to make the best use of all the time spent possessing the puck.
With another seven goals added to the tally, the Avalanche are now averaging 4.75 per game throughout these playoffs. That puts them on pace to average more than one goal per game more than any previous Stanley Cup champion in the salary cap era, while also finishing 1.5 goals better in terms of per-game output compared to the Lightning of last season.
Nothing, it seems, can slow down the Avalanche, who became just the second team ever in the regular season or playoffs to hang seven goals on Andrei Vasilevskiy in his 465-game career.
Colorado is now 14-2 in these playoffs, losing only to the St. Louis Blues in the second round. If the Avs finish the series in five games or less, they will have completed the most dominant path toward the title in the salary cap era, besting the previous mark set by the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.
And they will have went through the best team ever assembled under the current rules in order to accomplish that.
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