The lightning game ends in controversy. And now the era may end in grief

TAMPA – So that’s how it all ended? With a frame-by-frame breakdown of the fatal goal, as if Abraham Zapruder was filming from a grassy knoll?

After all the good times, all the memories, all the glory, should we raise our voices in collective anger? Is it possible that Lightning was finally destroyed by a conspiracy of silence?

Let’s hope not.

Let’s hope that the very vague dissatisfaction of coach John Cooper, which John Cooper spoke about in his brief post-match press conference on Wednesday night, was just the frustration of a man whose team may have finally exhausted their endless supply of tomorrow.

Tampa Bay lost 3-2 to Colorado in overtime in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, leaving the Lightning in the only loss for the rest of their NHL reign.

This is the title. This is news. This is reality.

But the coming days could be filled with screenshots, slow motion videos, and maniacal complaints that the Lightning were denied a triple because the referees didn’t blow their whistle when there were too many players on the Avalanche ice. last moments.

“You know, I’ve been part of some heartbreaking defeats and defeats,” Cooper said. “Been with a group that just fights and fights and fights. And they made it to the third Stanley Cup Final in a row. And in an era of restrictions where it’s so damn hard and the rules are against you because the league wants parity.

“And I love it in the league. And that’s what makes it tougher… but this one will sting a lot more than the others… just because it was gaining strength… it was potentially… I don’t know… It’s hard for me. It will be difficult for me to speak. I will talk to you (Thursday). You will understand what I mean when you see the winning goal. And my heart breaks for the players. Because we should probably still be playing.”

So is this what really happened?

Yes? Probably? Maybe?

At least one version of the video shows Nazem Kadri jumping onto the ice seconds before Nathan McKinnon reaches the bench. As soon as McKinnon is off the ice, the Colorado players start celebrating Kadri’s winning goal.

Even more devastating was the official boxing score handed out by league officials moments before Cooper’s press conference. Each goal includes a list of players on the ice at the time it was scored.

There are seven players on the gates of Kadri in the Avalanche. Obviously, this is one more than allowed. The league later removed Eric Johnson’s number from the on-ice list on their online scoreboard and announced in the media workroom that Johnson was not on the ice.

Frankly, it was a weak response from the NHL.

Between the confusion over the opening score, the apparent video evidence, and the smell of an accusation from Cooper, the NHL should have quickly resolved the dispute.

Instead, it wasn’t until after 1 a.m. that the league finally released a statement saying that none of the on-ice officials had seen too many men on the ice and the game was not subject to video review.

But the announcement essentially leaves everyone in limbo. The referees haven’t seen too many men on the ice, but the league never says if the original choice was the right one.

So Avs has a cloud over their win, Lightning has bile in his throat, and millions of fans are left wondering what the hell happened.

And this is a blatant shame. Because it was a great game and it could be a great moment for two great teams.

And even though the Lightning lost, that night was everything you ever liked about this team. Mastery, determination, dedication and fearlessness.

And if this is the end – if this is the last game of the season at the Amalia Arena – it was a worthy farewell, even if the final moments ended in confusion.

If the Lightning failed to win a third title in a row, it wasn’t for lack of effort. The owner was spending money, the general manager was making deals on time, and the players were leaving their hearts on the ice.

At some point, we may have simply asked too much of them.

Getting this far without Braden Point, your top scorer in the last two postseasons, is impressive enough. Nikita Kucherov is also ill, and Nick Paul is not quite well.

And then, during the fourth game, the Lightning lost to Eric Cernak. Anthony Cirelli also went down with a right hand injury and when he returned he could no longer take faceoffs.

“We’re working, we’re giving it our all, and it’s definitely not for lack of effort,” Captain Stephen Stamkos said. “Like I said, at this time of year it’s a sacrifice. Nobody outside the locker room knows. Sometimes you think you know, but you don’t. This is a difficult time of the year for both teams.

“You have guys who are playing a lot of things right now. The guys just fight, and our group goes into battle.

Did the Lightning deserve to lose in Game 4? No, but only because they played so valiantly.

So they were cheated by winning the fourth game? No, not even if the Avs had too many people on the ice.

This game is played at breakneck speed and the referees do their best to make the right decision. If they missed it, then so be it. There is always tomorrow.

Even if they start running to Tampa Bay.

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