“I’m not questioning our team” – The Denver Post

“I’m not questioning our team” – The Denver Post

More than one member of the Tampa Bay Lightning left Ball Arena on Saturday night muttering something about looking themselves in the mirror.

The Avalanche’s 7-0 throttling to stake a 2-0 rule in the Stanley Cup Final had that kind of effect on Tampa Bay. Undisciplined and dejected, the Lightning will head back home facing the same deficit it stared at after two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers.

But those Rangers might not have the two-way firepower Colorado possesses. Between Nathan MacKinnon’s speed, Cale Maker’s graceful transitions and Valeri Nichushkin’s strength, the Avalanche represented a complete supplement of dominance Saturday night.

by two games, the Lightning’s supposed antidote – Andrei Vasilevskiy – has been far more porous than Tampa Bay can provide. Despite his unseemly 76% save percentage in Game 2, Lightning coach Jon Cooper threw his weight behind his elite goalie and said there was never a question of pulling him.

“Listen, this is the playoffs, and we’re here to win hockey games,” Cooper said. “(He) gives us the best chance to win a hockey game. He’s our guy. He’s going to be there in a associate nights. He’s the best goalie in the world. We win together, and we lose together. already if I did, I don’t think he would’ve come out. That’s what a competitor he is.”

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, whose early first-period penalty put the Lightning at an immediate disadvantage, said the onus was on the defense, not on Vasilevskiy.

“It was not a great start,” McDonagh said. “… He stopped probably three-fourths of those breakaways and strange-man looks. That’s too many chances against him.  We know that as a group, we’ve gotta start by defending harder.”

Defending harder, forging more offensive opportunities, protecting the puck and remaining disciplined. The list could go on.

Cooper said he wasn’t concerned with the jarring disparity Saturday night since it nevertheless represented the same margin as his team had seen in the last round.

The two-time defending champs shaking in their skates?

“I’m not questioning our team,” Cooper said. “They’re ballers in there.”

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