TAMPA, Fla. — The Colorado Avalanche are on the brink of their first Stanley Cup title since 2001, thanks to Nazem Kadri’s overtime goal.
Even if the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning don’t believe it should have counted.
Kadri scored at 12:02 of the extra period to give Colorado a 3-2 victory in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final and move the Avalanche within a win of their first championship in over two decades.
Without specifically saying Tampa Bay felt Colorado had too many men on the ice for the winning goal, 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.”
The NHL released a statement saying the penalty is a judgement call that can be made by the on-ice officials. Each of the four officials said they did not see a too many men on the ice situation on the winning play. The call is not subject to video review.
Back in the lineup after being sidelined since June 4 with a thumb injury, Kadri skated in on Andrei Vasilevskiy and slipped a shot under the goaltender’s right arm to give Colorado a 3-1 series lead.
“That was a huge win. A resilient win,” said Kadri, who had been sidelined since being injured during Game 3 of the Western Conference final against Edmonton.
“I’ve been waiting for this my whole life,” the Colorado center added. “I figured it was time to join the party.”
The Avalanche outshot the Lightning 11-3 in the extra period. Vasilevskiy stopped Logan O’Connor on a breakaway, and Colorado had a shot clang off the post and another hit the crossbar before Kadri ended it.
Game 5 is Friday night in Denver, where Colorado won the first two games of the series and are 7-2 this postseason.
Anthony Cirelli scored 36 seconds into the game and Victor Hedman also scored in regulation for the Lightning. They took a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Nathan MacKinnon scored on a second-period power play for Colorado, and Andrew Cogliano tied it early in the third.
Darcy Kuemper, pulled from Game 3 after giving up five goals in a 6-2 loss, stopped 37 shots and had an assist of the winning goal for the Avalanche.
Vasilevskiy finished with 35 saves. He has rebounded from allowing 11 goals in Games 1 and 2 to limit the high-scoring Avalanche to five the past two games.