Darcy Kemper, Tampa Bay Lightning shot stopper.
And Darcy Kemper, offensive catalyst?
After stopping 37 shots in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday, Kemper received a minor assist by scoring Nazem Kadri’s overtime goal to end his night of redemption.
After conceding five goals on 22 shots and watching the last 28 minutes off the bench in Monday’s Game 3 loss, Kemper was solid save for Victor Hedman’s backhanded goal in the second period. It was the only flaw on Kemper’s scorecard when the Avalanche were in position to win the Cup on home ice on Friday night.
The Lightning had 39 shots, the most by the Avalanche rivals this postseason, including 17 shots in the first period, one more than in all of Game 2.
“He was great,” teammate Nathan McKinnon said of Kemper. “I thought even in the third game he was unlucky with some of those goals that were scored and we also hung him up to dry. (In Game 4) it was without a doubt the Kuemps we knew.”
McKinnon and his teammates had no doubts, as did coach Jared Bednar.
Kemper said he and Bednar “had a good talk (Tuesday) and he said that without a doubt I would be back and wanted me to be free and play my game and that’s what I was trying to do. I knew the guys would cover for me.”
Kemper solved Bednar’s biggest problem by not being a problem anymore.
“Our team believes in him and I believe in him,” Bednar said.
The Lightning scored a goal 36 seconds into the game when a shot knocked off Kemper’s mask and Anthony Cirelli, completely uncovered, scored from the top of the crease (nine feet).
But Aws’ focus on building up defense worked after the first goal. According to the Natural Stat Trick, Lightning had 13 “high danger” chances, compared to 20 in Game 3.
After Cirelli’s goal, none of the Lightning’s remaining 12 shots in the first period came from 15 feet away.
In the second period, Kemper had three key sequences: a save by Ondrej Palat, consecutive stoppages on Hedman’s shots (23 and 14 feet – Kemper moved well to the other side of the net to stop the rebound) and a point. – an empty stop by Ross Colton after time runs out.
In the third period, only one of the Lightning’s 10 shots on goal came from 40 feet away, a 21-foot Hedman shot from a tight angle.
In an overtime dominated by the Avalanche, the Lightning’s three shots on goal came from 27 (after a Bo Byram pass), 153 and 35 feet.
“I thought he was fighting,” Bednar said of Kemper. “Go through our roster, there are guys who had bad playoff games. It’s just that when it’s the goalkeeper, it’s much stronger because he’s your last line of defense.”
This was to be expected. But the first line of crime?
In the first overtime, the teams have a long substitution from their zone. The Avalanche especially dominated the stretch, holding the Lightning Zone for 42.3 seconds. As soon as the puck was thrown onto the ice, the Lightning rushed to change, and upon learning of the discovery, Kemper, instead of giving the puck to Bo Byram to carry it over the net, passed forward to Arturi Lehkonen.
“Everyone looked exhausted for their part, so I just tried to pick it up (the ice) as quickly as possible and hopefully get something from the rush,” Kemper said.
Lehkonen passed to Kadri, who scored the winning goal. Kemper’s assist was the first by an Avalanche goaltender in three games in the Stanley Cup Finals and ended his redeeming game.
“We need him to play well and we need him to be the deciding factor,” said Andrew Cogliano. “I thought he did it.
If Kemper does it again, he will join Patrick Roy as Avalanche Cup-winning goaltenders.