Avalanche advantage in special teams paves the way for 3-1 Cup lead

TAMPA, Florida. After the third period of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals arrived here Wednesday night, the special teams left. As expected, the referees missed the little things.

This game was supposed to be decided in an even game, and it was thanks to Nazem Kadri’s heroic overtime action that the Avalanche won 3-2 to take a 3-1 series lead against Tampa Bay.

But in the 11-plus periods leading up to the third period and overtime in Game 4, the Avalanche have dominated the special teams in this series, which is a big reason they could win the Cup on Friday night. The Avs won that comparison in all four games, including game 4 when they went 1 for 2 on the power play and blocked the Lightning for the two innings of man advantage they had.

In this series, Colorado holds 6 out of 13 positions in the power play and has won 13 out of 14 short-handed situations.

“Without special teams, you can’t win the playoffs; you won’t go as far as we did,” said Avs center and main penalty Nico Sturm after the victory. “The fact is that we completely trust them. When our power play goes down, I think, “There’s a very good chance we’ll score right now.” On the other hand, there is no panic at all on PC.

“We’re so confident in the guys that we have in both groups.”

Sturm assisted linemate Andrew Cogliano’s goal in the third period to make it 2-2. The Avs never led Game 4 until they won it. Cogliano, whose Sturm shot bounced off Colliano’s body and slid past goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy, is also a major penalty killer. He is proud of this unit.

“Powerplay was a key differentiator for us as we scored on time and kept us in games,” Colliano said after Game 4. “When they hit the ball like this, they feel confident. As far as PK is concerned, we’ve done a pretty good job lately, and we should continue to do so. (The Lightnings) are very skilled and at best, just stay away from the (penalty) box.”

Center Nathan McKinnon scored the Aws’ powerplay goal on Wednesday to equalize at 1-1 at 5:17 of the second period. It was McKinnon’s first goal of the series, extending Colorado’s power-play streak to five games pertaining to Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against Edmonton.

“A little trouble early. Not our best first period. But we took control of the game in the last 50 minutes,” McKinnon said. “Amazing win, coming home, need to win another one. We deserved this victory. We dominated OT. We had a good third period. Good dynamics before the fifth game.”

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