DENVER — The Tampa Bay Lightning said their confidence was unshaken despite a 7-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday night, the playoff loss most unbalanced in franchise history.
“At the end of the day, we lost the game, not the series,” defender Victor Hedman said.
The Lightning’s other biggest losses in the playoffs have been five goals. Colorado’s 7-0 victory is tied for the second-largest margin of victory in a Stanley Cup Final shutout victory in NHL history.
“Am I shocked that we lost seven-zip?” center Steven Stamkos said. “I mean, I don’t think we saw it coming.”
The Lighting captain said the margin of loss is “totally unacceptable, especially at this time of year,” and acknowledged that some could see back-to-back Stanley Cup champions counted out in the series because of it.
“Look, people are going to watch this game tonight and probably think the streak is over,” he said. “But we’re a very resilient group. We were in that position in the last round. So whether it’s 1-0, 7-0 or 10-0, it’s a playoff loss. We have to rise as a team . . Let’s go home in front of our fans, and see what we’re made of.”
The Lightning were hampered in Game 2, and not just in the final margin of loss. They vowed to have a better start than in Game 1, when the Avalanche built a 2-0 lead at 9:23 of the first period. Instead, the Lightning trailed the Avalanche 3-0 just 1:52 into Game 2.
It started with a hook penalty on defenseman Ryan McDonagh just 1:01 from the start of the game that Colorado turned into a power-play goal from Valeri Nichushkin for the 1-0 lead.
“It was an unruly penalty on my part,” McDonagh said. “Giving a team a numerical advantage from the first minute is never a good recipe. We lost our cover and gave them strange looks. Every time you do that, you flirt with disaster and danger. C It was a bad time to get off to a bad start.”
The Lightning vowed to have a stronger second game, saying they had found ways to slow down the Avalanche’s fleet skaters and reduce their offensive pressure. They did neither.
“We have a game plan and he’s trying to neutralize their speed and forechecking,” Stamkos said. “And we’ve strayed a bit from that at times and it’s cost us. It takes a great team to realize the mistakes we’ve made. And I have full confidence in this group that we’ll have a much better effort.”
The Avalanche had a 60-28 advantage on shot attempts in Game 2, with the Lightning only making 16 shots on goal against goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
“As soon as we start turning the puck over and giving them chances, that’s when the game changed,” said forward Nick Paul. “We have to find a way to build momentum, get shots on the net. Not enough shots tonight. We can’t score if you don’t get any shots.”
The Lightning had been one of the best teams in the NHL to make adjustments in Game 2. They were 9-2 in the second games of the series, allowing just 1.91 goals against per game since 2020. A big reason for that was goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had a .938 save percentage in those games. Vasilevskiy allowed all seven goals in Game 2 on 30 shots. But coach Jon Cooper said he never considered retiring his star keeper.
“Look, it’s the playoffs and we’re here to win hockey games,” Cooper said. “Vasy gives us the best chance of winning a hockey game and he’s our guy. He’s the best goalkeeper in the world and we win together and we lose together. Even I don’t think he would have come out. “
The Lightning skaters said they just didn’t play well enough in front of Vasilevskiy.
“We let it dry tonight,” Stamkos said. “He’s been our backbone for years and years and years. We owe it to him to have a better game next game. It’s by no means on him tonight.”
The series travels to Tampa for Game 3 Monday night. The Lightning also lost 2-0 to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals, before coming back strong with four straight wins. Cooper said he saw signs of the team turning the corner in Game 2 on the road. But Cooper didn’t see enough of a pullback from his team in Game 2 against the Avalanche, which surprised him.
“The game got away from us early on and we showed a propensity to push back for years,” he said. “Tonight we didn’t. If that becomes a common theme in this series, it’s probably going to be short. I never doubt the guys in the room. Does it suck to lose a game like that? Sure We are It doesn’t really happen to us But is it ever going to happen?