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In Game 1 thriller, Avalanche use quick thunder in OT to stun Lightning

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APTOPIX Stanley Cup Lightning Avalanche Hockey

Colorado Avalanche left wing J.T. Compher, left, celebrates next to Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy after an overtime goal by Andre Burakovsky in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher )

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DENVER – If this is what the Stanley Cup final is going to bring us for the next two weeks, the entire hockey world should sign up for seven games.

Andre Burakovsky scored at 1:23 of overtime Wednesday night to give the Colorado Avalanche a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in a scintillating opener to the series in Ball Arena. 

Burakovsky, a Stanley Cup champion with Washington in 2018, took a pass from Val Nichushkin and slammed home a shot from the right circle past Andrei Vasilevskiy with the only shot on goal of the extra period. Nichushkin had pounced on a loose puck after J.T. Compher's shot was blocked by Victor Hedman.

"I wasn't thinking much. It was kind of a crazy feeling," said Burakovsky, a 22-goal man in the regular season who has just two in the playoffs.

"It was great. He's been playing well lately and he sure deserves it," added Colorado winger Mikko Rantanen. "He has a great shot and it was an overall nice play for that line. 'Comphs' tried to shoot it first and Val with the heads up play there just to slide it over."

It was the first time a final opener went past regulation since Los Angeles' 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in 2014. Game 2 is here Saturday night before the series shifts to Tampa for Games 3 and 4. The Lightning have lost the opener to three of their four postseason series this season.

"There were stretches of that game I liked what we were doing and stretches I didn’t, and I can say that about Game 1 in Toronto and Game 1 against the Rangers," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. "So we have to clean this up, and there’s some positive signs in this game, but the right team won the game. So give them credit for pulling it out.

“We’ve got better in us though. I don’t think by a country mile did we give them our best game and we still had a chance to pull it out."

Colorado had a pair of two-goal leads in regulation, but could not stand prosperity as Tampa forged a 3-3 tie with a pair of goals 48 seconds apart in the middle period. There were no goals in the final 26 1/2 minutes of regulation.

Playing its first game in the NHL's ultimate round since it won the Cup here with a Game 7 victory over New Jersey in 2001, Colorado had control over the first 33 minutes in building a 3-1 lead.

The Avalanche used their relentless offensive pressure to generate plenty of chances, and got some uncharacteristic mistakes in the Tampa Bay net from Vasilevskiy. The Avs outshot the Lightning 38-23.

Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog scored the first goal of the series at 7:47, tapping home a loose puck in the crease as Mikko Rantanen's shot got through Vasilevskiy's glove. The lead went to 2-0 at 9:23 as Nichushkin fired one through Vasilevskiy's legs on a Nathan MacKinnon feed after a Tampa Bay turnover at the Lightning blue line.

Nick Paul cut the visitors' deficit in half at 12:26, outworking defenseman Erik Johnson to a loose puck near the crease and chipping it past a surprised Darcy Kuemper. But Artturi Lehknoen reinstituted the two-goal lead at 17:31 by tapping home a Rantanen pass with the Avalanche on a two-man advantage.

But the two-goal Colorado lead quickly went away as the Lightning scored two goals in a 48-second span of the second period. Ondrej Palat cut the deficit in half at 12:51 of the period with a tap-in at the goalmouth after a sick dangle and pass from Nikita Kucherov. Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev than clanked home a long shot from the right point at 13:39 to suddenly get the Lightning even.

You would expect Tampa Bay to have a big answer in Game 2.

"I like the second half of our game there, battling back. Two really good teams going at it," said Tampa Bay forward Pat Maroon. "We block a shot there, they got a bounce there, and it’s in the back of our net. That’s Game 1. We just gotta refocus and be ready."

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