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                      Avalanche a win away from Stanley glory

                      China Daily | Updated: 2022-06-24 11:02
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                      Colorado Avalanche players Andrew Cogliano (center) and Josh Manson celebrate their team's overtime goal, scored by Nazem Kadri, to win Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday. AP

                      Controversial overtime goal puts Colorado on brink as Lightning's three-peat hopes hang by thread

                      Nazem Kadri's return to the lineup was the kind players dream about: scoring the overtime winner to move the Colorado Avalanche within one victory of the Stanley Cup title.

                      Kadri's tally gave Colorado a 3-2 victory over the host Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Avalanche lead the best-of-seven championship series 3-1 and will try to clinch the crown in Game 5 on Friday in Denver.

                      After missing four games due to thumb surgery, Kadri became the hero when he lifted a shot from in close for his first-ever playoff overtime goal at 12:02 of the extras.

                      "Oh man, roller-coaster of emotions, thinking I was done and then having a sliver of hope and sitting here right now is surreal," Kadri said postgame. "I was excited to join the team again. This is what I've been waiting for my whole life.

                      "That was a huge win. A resilient win," added Kadri, who had been sidelined since being injured during Game 3 of the Western Conference final against Edmonton. "I figured it was time to join the party."

                      Nathan MacKinnon and Andrew Cogliano also scored for the Avalanche.

                      Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 37 saves, 16 of them in the first period. He also became the first goalie to assist a Stanley Cup Final overtime winner.

                      Teams that have held a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final have gone on to win the series 35 of 36 times. The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs escaped a 3-0 hole in the Final to beat the Detroit Red Wings.

                      "We know the toughest game is coming up and it's not going to be easy," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "They're going to bring their best, and we need to do the same thing."

                      Antony Cirelli and Victor Hedman scored for the Lightning, while goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 34 shots.

                      Lightning coach Jon Cooper suggested the goal should not have been allowed.

                      "We're all in this together. Players, coaches, refs, everybody. But this one is going to sting much more than others," Cooper said.

                      "It's going to be hard for me to speak.... I'll speak with you (Thursday). You're going to see what I mean when you see the winning goal," Cooper added. "And my heart breaks for the players. Because we probably still should be playing.

                      "And just watch this team, what they've gone through and the battling that's gone on. And we're all in this together. Players, coaches, refs, everybody. I've been part of some heartbreaking losses and defeats to the teams that took us out and been with a group that just fights, fights and fights, and they fought their way to a third Stanley Cup Final in a row."

                      Replays showed the Avalanche had six skaters on the ice when Kadri gained the puck in the neutral zone seconds before scoring. As well, Colorado defenseman Bowen Byram may have touched the puck with a high stick earlier on the play, which would have stopped the action.

                      Either way, it was more intrigue after a back-and-forth affair.

                      Cirelli opened the scoring just 36 seconds into the game when he pounced on the rebound for his third goal of the playoffs, but MacKinnon's power-play goal tied the score 5:17 into the second period. The puck ricocheted off MacKinnon's skate and into the net for his 12th goal of the playoffs but first of the series.

                      Hedman restored the Lightning's lead thanks to a perfectly placed long backhand shot just past the midway point of the second period for his third goal of the playoffs.

                      Cogliano tied the score again three minutes into the third period when Nico Sturm's shot ricocheted off his leg and into the goal for his third of the playoffs.

                      The two-time defending champions couldn't score again and now are one loss away from having their run end.

                      "We know what it feels like to be in their shoes, have a chance to win at home and it's not an easy thing to do," Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. "It's a pretty nerve-wracking day. We can't just sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. ... It stings right now, but we've got to go there and win a hockey game."

                      Tampa Bay is trying to become the first team since the New York Islanders won four championships in a row from 1980-83 to lift the Cup three straight seasons.

                      Tampa Bay had its franchise playoff-record eight-game winning streak at home end. The Lightning outscored opponents 33-13 over those eight wins.

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