Kadri, Kuemper among top Avalanche players in Game 4 of Cup final

TAMPA — Who played well in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final? Sometimes it’s easy to say, sometimes it’s not. NHL.com rated the players in the Colorado Avalanche’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Wednesday. The Avalanche leads the best-of-7 series 3-1 with Game 5 in Colorado on Friday. Here are the players and trends that stood out the most.

roll of honor

nazem kadri (Avalanche) — Kadri returned to the series after missing four games and 18 days after hand surgery and scored the game-winning goal at 12:02 of overtime to put his team within a win of winning the Stanley Cup. Kadri’s seventh goal in the playoffs was a well-placed shot under the arm of the Rayo goalkeeper Andrey Vasilyevsky and just below the crossbar after being sent on the attack by a pass from arturi lehkonen. Kadri played 18:42, with two shots on goal.

darcy kumper (Avalanche) — After allowing a goal 36 seconds into Game 4, a rebound from a Erik Cernak shot his mask which was put back on by antonio cirelli, the Avalanche goalie stayed strong and finished the game with 37 saves. It was a key comeback performance for Colorado’s number one goalie, especially considering his team never led the game until Kadri’s game-winning goal. Kuemper had allowed five goals on 22 shots and was pulled 6:47 into the second period of Game 3, a 6-2 loss.

Victor Hedman (Flash of lightning) — The Tampa Bay defenseman had his strongest game of the series with 30:01 of ice time, seven shots on goal and one blocked shot. Hedman scored on a backhand at 10:42 of the second period to put Tampa Bay up 2-1. Hedman has 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) in 21 playoff games.

Andrei Vasilevsky (Lightning) — Vasilevskiy had his second straight solid game in the finals and was a key figure in Game 4 as Colorado came in with increasing pressure as the game wore on. He faced four shots in the first half and then 33 more from there to the end, finishing the game with 34 saves. Vasilevskiy blocked the onslaught several times in extra time before Kadri’s goal. Colorado outscored Tampa Bay 10-3 in overtime and 33-22 after the first period.

Nathan Mackinnon (Avalanche) — MacKinnon scored his first goal of the series at 5:17 of the second period on a power play. He played 27:03, the most of any forward in the game and had 15 shot attempts and eight shots on target. MacKinnon’s 12 playoff goals are second in the NHL, one behind Evander Kane of the Edmonton tankers. MacKinnon had an assist in each of the first two games in Denver, then didn’t make sense in Game 3.

[RELATED: Stanley Cup Final coverage | Stanley Cup Final schedule]

stock watch

Andrew Cogliano (up) — Colorado’s veteran fourth-row center was involved in Game 4 in many ways and being close to the net was important early in the third period. when teammate Nico Sturm returned a rebound into the Lightning net, Cogliano was near the crease and while being checked, the puck ricocheted off his leg and went in at 2:53, tying the game 2-2. Cogliano played 9:36 and made a vital contribution that helped his team get to extra time.

Lightning Defenders (top) — After a dismal performance in Game 2, in which they blocked nine shots, the Lightning were on their toes defensively from start to finish in Games 3 and 4, blocking shots left and right. They had 27 blocks in Game 3 and improved their performance there in Game 4 with 35, the most by any team in any Finals game. Tampa Bay leads the playoffs with 380 blocked shots.

Avalanche attack (top) — Early in Game 4, this arrow was trending down, as Colorado hadn’t generated a 5-on-5 goal in the two games at Amalie Arena in the Final until Cogliano scored at 2:53 of the third period. Kadri scored another 5-on-5 goal for the overtime winner and considering his 33 shots on goal after Wednesday’s first period, the Avalanche turned this bottom-up arrow into a key moment.

Avalanche Power Play (top) — Their 5-on-5 direction has faltered, but Colorado’s power play hasn’t. The Avalanche scored with the man advantage for the fourth straight Finals game, raising their playoff-leading ERA to 34.5 percent. MacKinnon’s power play goal at 5:17 of the second period was the result of relentless pressure for 1:20 after Victor Hedman was called for interference, and the Lightning didn’t get a clear one out of their own zone until the goal. The consistency and strength of the Avalanche attack on the power play has already had an effect in the Finals and looks like a big factor if the Lightning don’t find a way to neutralize it soon.

Palate of Ondrej (down) — The Rayo striker had a quiet game, too quiet for a team that was already behind in the series. Palat had no points, with three shot attempts and two shots on target, which is not enough when he plays up front with Nikita Kucherov Y Steven Stammos. Palat has two goals in the series, one each in Games 1 and 3, and has been pretty reliable in the playoffs with 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in 21 games.

what we learned

Lightning couldn’t keep the ice home

Tampa Bay has been rock-solid in the playoffs at Amalie Arena, winning eight straight postseason games there before Game 4 (8-1). And starting strong, with Anthony Cirelli’s goal after 36 seconds, in the first turn of the game, was the recipe they needed to get the home crowd going and adding energy. But the Avalanche are head and shoulders above any team Tampa Bay has faced in the playoffs and the momentum slowly passed to the visitors in this game. Tampa Bay, in its quest to win the Stanley Cup for the third straight season, is now one loss away from elimination with its second home loss in the playoffs.

Avalanche resistance shows up again

Colorado bounced back from its only road loss in the playoffs, a 6-2 loss in Game 3 of the Finals, but it took time in Game 4. The Avalanche trailed twice, 1-0 and 2-1, in Game 4, but rebounded on Cogliano’s third-period goal and Kadri’s goal in overtime to move within a win of winning the Stanley Cup. The Avalanche are winning anywhere and while they are under pressure in the playoffs, they are 15-3 in the postseason and 5-1 in overtime games.

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