11:10 p.m. ET
Well, that’s it from Tampa. To kinda steal a line from LL Cool J, we’re going back to Coly. I mean, we have another game here in Tampa on Wednesday, but this series will go at least five games, after the Lightning won Game 3, 6-2.
That of course means there will be a game Friday at Ball Arena in Denver. With the way the Lightning looked tonight, you get the feeling we will be going at least six and maybe even seven.
The Lightning dominated in a game they absolutely had to have.
Now, we wonder who will start in goal for the Avalanche in Game 4 and if they can stop the Lightning momentum before it gets too strong.
Be sure to check out NHL.com tonight for all the coverage from Tampa. We have a full team of writers here and a full team of editors and producers in New York burning the midnight oil to give you all the best coverage of this event.
11 p.m. ET
Things have settled down here, and there have been few scoring threats on either side this third period.
The Avalanche just killed two penalties — including a 28-second two-main advantage — to gain a little momentum, but they trail 6-2 with under six minutes left here in Tampa.
The Avalanche are losing their composure a little bit. First, Andrew Cogliano took a penalty after he was jostled by Corey Perry, and Devon Toews just rode Nikita Kucherov into the boards to give the Lightning the two-man advantage.
Kucherov appeared to get dinged up on the play. After taking a shot on the power play, he went to the bench and the tunnel, so we’ll see what his status is going forward.
Remember, though tomorrow is an off day for the Cup Final, we have the NHL Awards here in Tampa at 7 p.m. ET.
The Hart, Norris, Vezina and Calder trophies, and the Ted Lindsay Award, will be handed out. “Saturday Night Live” star Kenan Thompson is hosting, and there will be plenty of special presenters.
Just like it’s great to have fans and media all here for the Cup Final, it will be great to have a live awards show again after two years of remote programs.
10:40 p.m. ET
NHL.com blogger Nicholas Paul is all over the place tonight. He may get lost in the shuffle of the Lightning’s big boys — Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat — having big nights, but he’s been a force. Will be interesting to see what he has to say postgame.
Of course, most of the Lightning are having big nights, as they are showing the championship form that has led them to back-to-back Cup titles.
We can only guess, but some of the postgame storylines will likely center on the Avalanche goalie situation after Darcy Kuemper was pulled after giving up five goals. The other storyline, I’m sure, will be the Lightning again waking up after losing the first two games of a series, like they did against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
But the Avalanche are here for a reason, and just like it was foolish for anyone to think this series was over after two games, it may be foolish to think the Avalanche are going to go into the tank after just one loss.
Still a long way to go here, but it’s certainly looking like the Lightning are going to get Game 3, as they lead 6-2 with about 13 minutes to go.
10:30 p.m. ET
We have 20 minutes left to go here in Tampa, and the Lightning are in complete control, leading 6-2.
A series that the Avalanche seemingly had in control after a dominating 7-0 win in Game 2 is suddenly up for grabs again, especially with the Lightning getting five past starting goalie Darcy Kuemper.
Of course, the Avalanche got seven by Andrei Vasilevskiy in Game 2.
It will be interesting to see how the Avalanche play these final 20 minutes and how the Lightning respond.
10:12 p.m. ET
We are through two periods, and the Lightning are in control, 6-2, after an absolutely dominating second period when they outscored the Avalanche 4-1 and chased goalie Darcy Kuemper.
They even killed off of a penalty after Alex Killorn was whistled for slashing at 15:45.
The Avalanche have the ability to get back into this game, but they need to stop the Lightning from scoring. You can bet the questions about who starts Game 4 in net for Colorado will be asked postgame.
I’m sure coach Jared Bednar won’t answer, and we may not know until Game 4 starts, but it’s an interesting decision facing him.
But again, this is not all Kuemper. An Avalanche defense that looked dominant in Game 2 has been shredded tonight through two periods.
Colorado has a 27-26 edge in shots on goal, but Tampa Bay has had the much better chances.
The party has already started in here with fans sensing the victory and the fact that their team is back to being the two-time defending champs, not the team that lost 7-0 in Game 2 in Denver.
10:02 p.m. ET
This is becoming a blowout, and suddenly the Avalanche have a goaltending issue. After Darcy Kuemper is pulled, Pavel Francouz let a shot go right through his legs and Corey Perry banged it home for a 6-2 lead with 5:02 left in the second period.
It was a power-play goal with Nico Sturm in the box for delay of game.
What a difference home ice makes. The Lightning look like a completely different team at Amalie Arena than they did in Denver.
They are outskating and outhitting and outplaying the Lightning here in Tampa, and they are 24 minutes away from cutting Colorado’s series lead to 2-1.
The Lightning talked yesterday and today about how they can’t just rely on home ice to get them back into the series, that they needed to play better, and they have.
9:55 p.m. ET
The Lightning have scored again, this time with Pat Maroon going to the net and flipping it over goalie Darcy Kuemper, who is having a tough night between the pipes. Actually, his night is over. Pavel Francouz is now in goal for the Avalanche, who trail 5-2 with 8:15 to go in the second.
They just showed Charles Barkley on the big screen with those paddle things. This place is going nuts.
How fitting to have the Round Mound of Rebound here for the Lightning rebounding in a big way.
OK, there is cruel, and there is what the Lightning just pulled on the big screen.
After a kiss cam se
gment in which they showed some nice Lightning couples in the crowd, they showed an Avalanche fan by himself and played Mariah Carey’s version of “All By Myself.”
The Lightning just showed someone on the big screen named TFUE. I’ll have to check in with the Price kids on that one.
Nikita Kucherov has joined an impressive list. With his assist on Stamkos’ goal, he became the fourth player in NHL history to score at least 25 points in three straight postseasons, joining Wayne Gretzky, Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy. Not bad company.
9:44 p.m. ET
It’s Stammer Time here in Tampa. Steven Stamkos just beat goalie Darcy Kuemper from the slot to give the Lightning a 4-2 lead with 12:08 left in the second period.
Not to toot our own horn here, but we said the Lightning needed to test Kuemper, and they have, scoring more goals tonight than they had in the first two games combined.
To be fair to Kuemper, he’s not getting a lot of help from his teammates tonight; Stamkos was pretty much wide open in the slot.
They just played “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins here, reminding me I need to see this new “Top Gun” movie. I saw NHL.com independent correspondent Wes Crosby call it a perfect movie on Twitter. I’ll have to calm Wes down a bit next time I talk to him. “Fargo” is a perfect movie.
9:37 p.m. ET
The Avalanche have answered right back, making it 3-2 4:43 into the second period on a power-play goal from Gabriel Landeskog.
They went on a power play at 4:03, with Ross Colton going off for hooking. The Lightning said this morning they needed to stay out of the box, and they do. That’s now two power-play goals in this game by Colorado.
Per my last note, the assists on the goal went to Makar and Rantanen; each has now tied the Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques record with 19 assists this postseason.
All you New York Yankees fans out there, you can blame Mike Zeisberger for Gerrit Cole’s attempt at a no-hitter just a few miles from here, going away.
Between periods, Zeisberger told me Cole had a no-hitter through seven. Well, wouldn’t you know it, Cole gave up a hit to start the eighth.
9:31 p.m. ET
The Lightning have scored again, with NHL.com blogger Nicholas Paul making it a 3-1 game just 1:26 into the second period. Paul picked up a puck in the slot and beat goalie Darcy Kuemper, who is getting tested tonight and at this point is having issues.
It was Paul’s fifth goal of the playoffs. What a pickup he’s been for the Lightning.
My stat guy Shawn P. Roarke just dropped this nugget on me:
With assists on Gabriel Landeskog‘s first-period goal, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen each got his 18th assist of the playoffs, tying Peter Forsberg (2002) for the second most in one postseason in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history behind Peter Stastny (19 in 1985 with Quebec).
9:25 p.m. ET
The second period has begun, and Nicholas Paul is back on the ice for the Lightning.
After an entertaining first period, it will be interesting to see how the teams come out. It was unquestionably the best period of the Final for the Lightning, but they lead by only one goal and we all know how quickly the Avalanche can strike.
Clearly, the Lightning need to win this game, down 2-0 in the series.
If you are a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers or New York Rangers, it was a painful intermission here in Tampa as the Lightning showed a video with their top 10 goals from this postseason.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy just wished the Lightning good luck on the video board. If you were watching ESPN, you saw Charles Barkley on the intermission.
9:10 p.m. ET
It was quite a first period. We had an even-strength goal, two power-play goals — one a highlight-reel goal — a disallowed goal and plenty of action at each end. And for the first time in the Final, the Lightning have a lead, up 2-1 after 20 minutes.
Lightning forward and NHL.com blogger Nicholas Paul appeared to get injured late in the period, so we will keep an eye on him and what that could mean for Tampa Bay, which is already without Brayden Point.
If you’re the Lightning, you have to be happy with it. They look much faster and much more able to keep up with Avalanche tonight than they did in Game 2. However, they have been a bit sloppy in their own end, and the Avalanche nearly scored at the end of the period.
The Avalanche outshot the Lightning 14-12, and this one is clearly far from decided.
We’ll be back for the second period.
9 p.m. ET
The Lightning are starting to look like the Lightning again. Ondrej Palat just scored at 14:54 on a beautiful give-and-go with Steven Stamkos.
We said before the game they needed to get better shots on Darcy Kuemper, and they have. They have 12 shots on goal and two have gone in. This place is jumping, and for the first time in the Final, the Avalanche appear to be back on their heels.
It’s exactly what the Lightning were looking for coming back home after two rough games in Denver.
8:55 p.m. ET
We have a Goal of the Final — and maybe Goal of the Season — candidate from Anthony Cirelli, who just lit this place up with an unbelievable power-play goal at 13:03. He got around the Avalanche defensemen, skated it in on goalie Darcy Kuemper, and somehow slid it through his pads. It was his first goal in 14 games.
The Lightning had looked pretty bad on the power play before that goal. We are tied 1-1 with just over five minutes left in what has been an entertaining first period.
The Lightning went back on the power play at 10:54 when Alex Newhook was whistled for holding the stick. It gave the Lightning a big power play shortly after Gabriel Landeskog put Colorado up 1-0 with a power-play goal.
8:45 p.m. ET
The Avalanche have scored, and this time it counts. Gabriel Landeskog scored on the power play at 8:19 of the first period.
Note to the Lightning: Stay out of the penalty box.
The Lightning actually got the game’s first power play at 5:50 of the first period when forward J.T. Compher went off for interference, but it was wiped out when Lightning forward Ondrej Palat took a high-sticking penalty on Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson with 41 seconds left on the power play, eventually giving the Avalanche a 1:19 power play.
We’ve heard “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones for the first time tonight. I wonder if those guys ever realized that song would become one of the greatest sports anthems of all time. Probably not. That was followed up here by an organ rendition of “Tequila” by the Champs. It was a quick one, though, giving me no time to get up and do my Pee-Wee Herman dance.
NHL.com blogger Nicholas Paul is all over the place in the early going. He’s been one of the unsung heroes for the Lightning in this run, just ask fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He scored twice in Game 7 of the first round and has been a gritty presence this whole series.
8:33 p.m. ET
The Lightning have gotten the first big break of the game. It appeared the Avalanche took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Valeri Nichushkin exactly five minutes in, but after the Lightning challenged, the play was ruled offside, the puck barely coming out of the zone before Bowen Byram put it back it in.
It helped breathe some life back into this place after it appeared the Avalanche scored. The Lightning came out strong and put pressure on Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper, but he has been up to the test, stopping a pretty good attempt from Ross Colton early in the first.
The Lightning brought out some royalty in the pregame, with Dave Andreychuk, captain of their 2004 Cup winning team, making an appearance on the ice.
Those paddle things the Lightning handed out are loud. The sound reminds me of the thunder stinks the California Angels or Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, whatever they are called, use to hand out.
8:15 p.m. ET
After an emotional pregame show that featured an inspirational video starring wrestler Titus O’Neil, “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC blaring in Amalie Arena, and a stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the Lightning’s own Sonya Bryson-Kirksey, we are ready to go here.
The Lightning, already down 2-0, will try to get back into the series without forward Brayden Point, who played in Games 1 and 2, but missed the 10 previous games and is out tonight.
The Avalanche will be without forward Andre Burakovsky for this one, and forward Nazem Kadri remains out.
Missing Burakovsky is a big blow for the Avalanche; he had three points (two goals, one assist) through the first two games, including the OT goal in Game 1.
One interesting note from the goalie situation is the fact that Andrei Vasilevskiy did not take part in the Lightning’s full team morning skate today. There is still plenty of debate among the media and fans as to whether he should have been pulled after two periods in Game 2. Trailing 5-0, it was clear the Lightning were not going to win Game 2, and it could have gotten him some rest. Maybe he got that rest this morning. Clearly for the Lightning to have any chance, he needs to be better than he was in Games 1 and 2.
The Lightning also need to make life much tougher for Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper, who has barely been tested in the first two games.
I think we all expect the Lightning to come out firing tonight, but let’s not forget, after losing Games 1 and 2 to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, they trailed 2-0 in the second period before finally waking up.
I’m not sure they can afford to fall behind to the Avalanche, who are two wins away from winning the Cup for the first time since 2001.
7:40 p.m. ET
The teams are on the ice for warmups, and Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri are not out there for the Avalanche, a good indication they won’t play tonight.
Lightning forward Brayden Point, deemed a game-time decision by coach Jon Cooper, is also missing from warmups. Riley Nash is dressed, so don’t expect to see Point either.
For all you Broadway fans, the Lightning are dipping into musical “Cats” to get the crowd pumped up. They showed a video of the past two Cup runs set to “Memories.” As long as it’s not from the movie with James Corden, I’m OK with that decision.
This is the first time I have been here for a game — other than the 2018 NHL All-Star Game — so I need to get used to the loud thunder sound effect they play every so often. It’s scared the hell out of me the first two times, but I’ll be ready going forward.
A big thumbs up to the Amalie Arena concession stands. As part of the media meal, we got a voucher for certain food stands. I ended up get a bucket of chicken marsala. Pretty, pretty good.
7:20 p.m. ET
We are about 45 minutes from puck drop, and though the Lightning are down 2-0, you can bet this crowd will be loud. In fact, every fan has been given some sort of plastic noisemaker. They look like the game we used to play as kids with the rubber ball and the wooden paddle — see the scene in “Blazing Saddles.”
I would assume the Lightning fans are “preparing” for the game at local watering holes because there are not that many people here right now, but judging by the amount of people on the streets in Tampa a few hours before the game, it will be packed.
When we go to games, we like to be on the lookout for random hockey jerseys, and a few minutes ago we spotted a guy in a Billy Smith Islanders jersey. Pretty impressive.
Warmups are a few minutes away so we should get an indication of who is in and who is not shortly.
6:45 p.m. ET
Stanley Cup fever is alive and well here in Tampa, with “Go Bolts” banners all over the city, from businesses to high schools to hotels. Still, there is a sense of uneasiness with the Lightning not only down 2-0 but coming off a 7-0 loss in Game 2.
Speaking of fever, it’s rather hot here on the Gulf Coast. And unlike Denver, it’s not a dry heat. It’s about 90 degrees and humid, perfect hockey weather. Ha.
If you Lightning fans are looking for a few good omens: There was some thunder and lightning in the Tampa area today, though I’m told that’s pretty much every afternoon around here. But here’s a bigger one: As we were leaving the media hotel, “Bac
k to Life,” by Soul II Soul. Hmm.
Back to the hockey, the biggest thing to look for pregame is the status of Lightning forward Brayden Point. He played in Games 1 and 2 of the Final after missing 10 games because of an injury sustained in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he was not on the ice this morning and is a game-time decision, according to coach Jon Cooper.
For the Avalanche, coach Jared Bednar says Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri are day to day. Neither forward was on the ice Monday morning, and Burakovsky was actually traveling from Denver to Tampa today.
Warmups will start in about 45 minutes, so we may get a better idea of where things stand with all three players.