TAMPA, Fla. — Nazem Kadri scored at 12:02 of overtime and the Colorado Avalanche beat Tampa Bay 3-2 on Wednesday night in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final to move within a victory of dethroning the two-time defending champion Lightning.
Playing for the first time since June 4 due to a thumb injury, Kadri skated in on Andrei Vasilevskiy and slipped a shot under the goaltender’s right arm to give Colorado a 3-1 series lead.
“That was a huge win. A resilient win,” said Kadri, who had been sidelined since being injured during Game 3 of the Western Conference final against Edmonton.
“I’ve been waiting for this my whole life,” the Colorado center added. “I figured it was time to join the party.”
The Avalanche outshot the Lightning 11-3 in the extra period. Vasilevskiy stopped Logan O’Connor on a breakaway, and Colorado had a shot clang off the post and another hit the crossbar before Kadri ended it.
Game 5 is Friday night in Denver, where Colorado won the first two games of the series and are 7-2 this postseason.
Anthony Cirelli scored 36 seconds into the game and Victor Hedman also scored in regulation for the Lightning. They took a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Nathan MacKinnon scored on a second-period power play for Colorado, and Andrew Cogliano tied it early in the third.
Darcy Kuemper, pulled from Game 3 after giving up five goals in a 6-2 loss, stopped 37 shots and had an assist of the winning goal for the Avalanche.
Vasilevskiy finished with 35 saves. He has rebounded from allowing 11 goals in Games 1 and 2 to limit the high-scoring Avalanche to five the past two games.
The Lightning are trying to become the first team to win at least three straight Stanley Cup titles since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83. The Avalanche last hoisted the Cup in 2001.
The Lightning have rebounded from playing poorly in Games 1 and 2 to make it interesting by neutralizing Colorado’s speed, limiting the Avalanche’s scoring opportunities and turning up the pressure on Kuemper, who was barely tested when he faced just 16 shots in a 7-0 blowout in Game 2.
Cirelli’s goal was the fastest in a Stanley Cup Final since 2006, and the Lightning set the tone for another busy night for Kuemper by outshooting the Avalanche 17-4 in the opening period. Two of Colorado’s shots came while skating short-handed, killing off Tampa Bay’s first power play of the night.
MacKinnon’s first goal of the series — 12th of the playoffs — erased Colorado’s early deficit at 5:17 of the second period. The Avalanche pulled even again when Cogliano, assisted by Nico Sturm and Darren Helm, scored on a deflection less than three minutes into the third.
Kadri returned to the lineup after missing four games. He had been out since injuring his thumb when he was boarded by Evander Kane in Game 3 of Colorado’s sweep of Edmonton in the Western Conference final.
Kane received a major penalty and was suspended a game
As expected, Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov played, while center Brayden Point was out of the lineup again for the defending champs.
Kucherov departed Game 3 after getting cross-checked by Colorado’s Devon Toews.
Point played in the first two games of the Final after missing 10 straight due to a right leg injury.
Avalanche left wing Andre Burakovsky (hand) missed his second straight game. He was injured blocking a shot in Game 2.
Mikko Rantanen and Cale Maker assisted on MacKinnon’s goal, giving both of them 20 this postseason — a franchise record for a single playoff year. Peter Stastny had 19 with Quebec in 1985.