Game 4: Lightning 2, Panthers 0 | Tampa Bay wins 4-0
Who was the guy?: Well, it was a close-out game, so the answer is the same as it’s been in seemingly every other Lightning close-out game for the last three postseasons. Andrei Vasilevskiy put up yet another shutout — his sixth in the Lightning’s last seven series clinchers — this one, a 49-save jewel of a performance in a game that saw the Panthers own the shot counter all night. This was the best goalie in the world, at his best.
What was the key?: Even knowing the final shot tally favored the Panthers by nearly a 2:1 ratio, the first period was another level, with Florida outshooting the Lightning 18-3. But Tampa Bay, even while stifled, was not rattled. Even when they had not one, but two (!) goals called back by coaches challenges in a matter of minutes, the Lightning kept their cool. Maybe it’s because they knew they had Vasilevskiy in net, or maybe it’s because they’ve been through enough playoff battles to know you have to weather some storms sometimes. They survived that early push, and eventually scored an ugly one that couldn’t be called back.
Keystat: Hat tip to our Joe Smith for this one.
—Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) May 24, 2022
The moment it was over: Officially, Ondrej Palat’s empty-netter with 23 seconds left sealed this one. Unofficially, once the Lightning got on the board in the third period, it sure felt like they were on to the next round — though Aaron Ekblad came agonizingly close to tying the game with about five minutes left, only to hit iron.
The moment of the game: It has to be the sequence of two overturned Lightning goals. The first saw the Panthers challenge that a puck had gone off the netting to stay in play, which should be an open and shut case. Replays of players on both teams’ body language indicated it might be. The only problem was that there was seemingly no angle showing that the puck had actually gone off the net. The referees did overturn the goal, so they must have seen something we couldn’t on TV, but it took an eternity for them to reach that conclusion.
That overturn was one thing. That the Lightning scored again just minutes later, only to have it overturned again due to a hand pass off a faceoff, was another. This one was an obviously correct overturn, but seeing two taken off the board in such short succession is so rare that you had to wonder how it would impact the Lightning. And when they did finally break through, their first reaction was to look to the replay just to be safe.
Is it a goal? pic.twitter.com/8ZA9DEK4eg
— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) May 24, 2022
This time, it was for real, and it was all they needed.
Lightning worry meter: 😎
panthers worry meter: 🏌️♂️⛳️
Game 4: Avalanche 6, Blues 3 | Colorado leads 3-1
Who was the guy?: The focus going into Game 4 was squarely on Nazem Kadri after his series-ending collision with Jordan Binnington in Game 3 and the fallout from that, which included racist attacks and death threats.
Certainly, Kadri never should have had to deal with those, no matter how fiery the emotions from Game 3 were. The on-ice bad blood was clear regardless, though, partly because his past playoffs hadn’t earned him much benefit of the doubt — just look back to the playoffs last year, when he was suspended for an illegal check on Justin Faulk. But in Game 4 he fed off of it and answered with a three-goal game. That’s the ideal response from Colorado’s perspective. He’s an incredibly impactful player who can tilt a series by playing his game and frustrating opponents as long as he doesn’t cross the line.
“For those who hate, that was for them.”
Nazem Kadri spoke to the panel about his performance tonight in St. Louis and dealing with the threats he received after Game 3 pic.twitter.com/w88yIGm7Yf
— NHLonTNT (@NHL_On_TNT) May 24, 2022
What was the key? Colorado was by far the better team at five-on-five. St. Louis generated less than 30 percent of the shot share. Sometimes the Blues can get by without the majority of the shots as long as they control the quality battle. But that wasn’t the case in Game 4. Colorado created 71.6 percent of the expected goals share according to Natural Stat Trick as they managed to take quality shots from the home plate area, while their opponent only tallied a few of their own.
Keystat: The Blues matched Ryan O’Reilly up against Nathan MacKinnon as they had home-ice advantage. In 13:49 of five-on-five ice time together, the Avalanche outshot St. Louis 19-12 and generated 10 scoring chances to the Blues’ four. That’s been a key matchup throughout this series, and the away team had the edge.
The moment it was over: It was bad enough when Colorado scored two goals in 1:23, with tallies from Erik Johnson and Kadri to even the score and then pull ahead. But as that second goal was getting announced, Devon Toews capitalized off of a Brayden Schenn turnover to make it 3-1 for the Avalanche. The road team scored three goals on consecutive shots in 1:42 of game time. From then on, the Blues had to work to come from behind to tie the score. But Colorado widened the gap once their opponent came close, and maintained their lead.
The moment of the game: Kadri let the crowd have it scoring the go-ahead goal in the second period, and the Blues didn’t appear to take kindly to it.
David Perron and Pavel Buchnevich got into it with the Colorado center moments later, which led to a 5-on-3 power play for the Avalanche.
Either of those instances could have been checked off as “the moment.” There was a lot of material here because there’s so much drama in this entire situation (and I thought there were no soap operas in hockey).
Nazem Kadri on scoring after the David Perron tackle: “Lose your cool, and we’ll make you pay.”
—Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) May 24, 2022
After that power play expired, Kadri netted his second of the game. Just out of the penalty box, Perron went to elbow his opponent when he celebrated that goal. While he never made contact, it looked like a pretty deliberate attempt for some payback.
Blues Worry Meter: 🤯🤯🤯🤯 … St. Louis struggled to keep their composition and now face elimination.
Avalanche Worry Meter: 🤠 … Not only does Colorado return home with a chance to close it out, but they should feel good about how their players held it together through the chaos and supported their teammate.
On tap for Tuesday
• Hurricanes at Rangers, 7 p.m. ET (Hurricanes lead 2-1)
• Flames at Oilers, 9:30 p.m. ET (Oilers lead 2-1)
(Top pic: Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)