Avs can’t close out Lightning in Game 5 loss at Ball Arena

  • Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) shoots against Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) during the second period in Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final Friday in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DENVER — Keep the champagne chilled. It’s back to the slushy ice of Amalie Arena for the Colorado Avalanche after they failed to close out the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final.

“It’s not supposed to be easy, and it’s not going to be easy,” Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said after Colorado’s 3-2 loss in Game 5 sent this sensational series back to Tampa, where the Lightning can even things up Sunday night.

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The Avalanche are 8-1 on the road in these playoffs, including an overtime victory in Game 4, and they’ll try to bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup this weekend.

The Lightning overpowered Colorado with tougher physicality, clogged the neutral zone and once again relied on goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s firebolt reflexes to counter Colorado’s superior speed and star-studded roster.

Coach Jon Cooper found a way for the Lightning to finally bottle up Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen to cut Colorado’s lead in the series to 3-2.

Ondrej Palat sent the puck through Darcy Kuemper’s legs with 6:22 remaining in the third period to break a 2-2 tie and the Avalanche were whistled for too many men on the ice with 2:38 remaining as they were trying for the equalizer.

Cooper had complained 48 hours earlier that Colorado’s game-winner in overtime came with six skaters on the ice, and the Avs didn’t get away with it this time.

The breaks just didn’t go Colorado’s way in Game 5. Neither did the calls as the Lightning knocked the Avalanche around, with or without the puck on their sticks.

Tampa Bay went with four forwards when Avalanche star Cale Makar was whistled for tripping on a disputed call in the second period during a 4-on-4 skate.

Nikita Kucherov capitalized moments later by scoring just the second goal in 17 power play chances by the Lighting in the final.

The Avalanche and their frenzied crowd disagreed with the call, but coach Jared Bednar didn’t do like Cooper had the previous game when he walked off after taking just one question while lamenting the Lightning’s tough luck.

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