Kishla: Avs Nazem Kadri, with a broken right thumb, drove a stake into the heart of the defending NHL champion

TAMPA, Florida. When the story of this NHL championship is told, the first and last words will be the same: Nazem Kadri. After the Avalanche lifted the Stanley Cup, the most uplifting toast has to be to the player who overcame his own demons and delivered the hockey holy grail to Colorado.

“Oh man. A roller coaster of emotions, I thought I was done and then I had hope… Sitting here right now is surreal,” Qadri said late Wednesday night after coming off the injured list to stake in the heart of Tampa Bay with a broken thumb.

In his first game appearance since June 4, Kadri broke the Lightning’s spirit with a strike that beat Tampa Bay goaltender Andrey Vasilevsky to give Colorado a 3-2 overtime win and give the Aves a chance to claim. number one in franchise history. championship since 2001.

On the winding path to the Cup, Kadri was threatened with death in St. Louis, and in Edmonton he was blinded by a dirty shot. None of this stopped him. All this made him stronger.

“When you need him, he helps,” said Colorado coach Jared Bednar.

In the sweet agony of overtime, every flick of the post or crossbar made Avalanche’s hearts race in overtime. I swear defender Beau Byram’s hot shot almost ripped the net in two, just to prolong the alarm.

When it was all over, Tampa Bay coach John Cooper took issue with Kadri’s goal, insisting “we should probably keep playing” before fleeing the press conference in desperation just 90 seconds after he sat down at the microphone.

“I don’t really understand what he’s thinking, why it shouldn’t have counted,” Kadri said, dismissing any suggestion by Cooper that the Avs could be at fault for having too many people on the ice when the winner of the game scored the goal. “I put the puck into the net. End of story.”

Sour grapes sound bittersweet from two-time defensive champions.

While I’m far from encouraging a conspiracy theory, the dude in charge of the ice at Amalia Arena allowed the playing surface to deteriorate to about the same consistency as the blue-crimson Slurpee in your neighborhood 7-Eleven in an attempt to nullify Avalanche. obvious advantage in command speed.

Giving a hook to Darcy Kemper in a 6-2 loss that gave life to the defending champions in this series, Bednar instilled confidence in his veteran goaltender by starting in Game 4. In the first minute of the game, the Lightning knocked out Kemper’s mask and conceded the puck. past him, with Anthony Cirelli scoring a goal to put Tampa Bay up a very early 1-0.

For most of the night, Kemper rewarded Bednar for his faith by being unyielding between the trumpets. However, he was slow to cut the corner of Tampa Bay star guard Victor Hedman’s wild shot, conceding a goal that gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead midway through the second period.

Kadri returned to the active Colorado team for the first time since his thumb was broken in a dirty kick from Edmonton forward Evander Kane. Instead of bringing him back into the lineup, Bednar started the game with Kadri skating between captain Gabe Landeskog and Valery Nichushkin.

To win the Cup, you need to be not only determined, but also beautiful. So hello to all freeloaders and grinders.

Once it emerged that Vasilevskiy had amassed the mojo that makes him the most profitable goalkeeper on the planet, Andrew Cogliano equalized in Game 4 to 2-2 at the start of the third period after an on-ice rugby bout. It was such a beautiful goal confusion that it took the official scorer a few minutes and perhaps a shot of tequila to recover before deciding whether to attribute the score to Nico Sturm or Cogliano.

“Amazing win, homecoming, need to win another one,” said center Nathan McKinnon, who scored the Avalanche in the first period. “We deserved this victory. We dominated OT.”

A year ago, the Avalanche’s championship dream was shattered when Kadri lost his cool and was suspended for eight games for almost jumping out of his skates to deliver a knockout punch to Blues defender Justin Faulk.

In an impassioned e-mail delivered to me on the day of the suspension, his wife insisted that the player with a long history of cheap shots was on his way to getting better.

“The last two days have been very difficult for us. We thought deeply,” wrote Ashley Kadri in May last year, exactly 13 months before the day when her husband scored the biggest goal of his career.

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