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TRAIKOS: Kadri is OT hero as Avalanche take series lead 3-1

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TAMPA, Fla. — Depending on the severity of the injury, complete healing of a broken bone can take at least six weeks.

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Nazem Kadri managed to cut this recovery time in half.

The Colorado Avalanche forward, who required surgery to repair a broken thumb on June 4, miraculously returned to the ice for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday. It could be that Kadri is a quick healer. But there is a good chance that the thumb was not 100% healed.

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Again, everyone is stoned at this time of year. “It’s just dealing with, I guess, the pain he’s going through,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said.

TRAIKOS: Kadri is OT hero as Avalanche take series lead 3-1
Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri, left, defends against Ondrej Palat, right, of the Lightning during the third period of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. Photo by Mike Carlson /Getty Images

Knowing Kadri, who had scored six goals and 14 points before being hit from behind in Game 3 of the Western Finals, the pain of missing the Stanley Cup Final further was probably worse than his thumb would have. could feel. But his earlier-than-expected return also spoke to Colorado’s level of desperation in a series that was in danger of slipping away from them.

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That’s no longer the case after a 3-2 overtime win, where Kadri put on a show by rounding defender Mikhail Sergachev and beating goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy with a stunning goal 12:02 into overtime.

It was what the Avalanche had hoped for. And that put them one win away from winning a championship. Game 5 takes place in Colorado on Friday.

Kadri, who skated to the wing on a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin, had been a non-factor for most of the game. His best chance came in the first half, when he fired a wrist shot that severed Andrei Vasilevskiy’s gloved hand. But for the most part, his shots lacked purpose.

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But he saved the best for last.

It was a game of fat goals and lucky rebounds. A goal fell on the goalkeeper’s mask. Another fell on a skate. Another on one knee. In the playoffs, that’s what you get. Not every game is going to be a blowout. The playoffs are a chore. And in the end, he’s the one who can grind the hardest.

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Right now, that appears to be Colorado, although it didn’t initially look like it.

The game had just begun when Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli gave the Lighting a 1-0 lead 36 seconds into the first faceoff. It was a somewhat controversial goal. With several Colorado players expecting a whistle after a point shot knocked Darcy Kuemper’s mask off the goaltender’s head, Cirelli pounced on the loose puck for her second of the final. the Stanley Cup.

From there, Tampa Bay continued to attack.

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The Lightning had 17 shots in the first period alone – one more than in the entire 7-0 loss in Game 2. But it was Tampa Bay’s defense that was far more impressive. Obstructing the neutral zone and blocking countless shots, they set up a defensive clinic against the top-flight Avalanche, giving up very little in the process.

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That’s how you win a championship. How you win consecutive championships. It can’t always be just about skill and scoring goals. When you get this far, you also need to be able to choke a team to death.

In Games 1 and 2, Colorado’s speed was too much for Tampa Bay to handle. Since then, it’s as if the Avalanche were moving in slow motion. Or through 200 feet of mud.

They can’t find a place on the ice. When they do, there’s a bunch of sticks and bodies in the way. As a result, Colorado had to resort to the kind of goals that won’t end up on any highlight clip.

With Tampa Bay leading 1-0, the Avalanche tied the game on the power play in the second period, when Nathan MacKinnon scored his first goal of the Stanley Cup Final on a shot that exploded off the back of his skates.

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About five minutes later, Tampa Bay regained their lead when defenseman Victor Hedman, who looked like he wanted to rush the puck every time he got it, skated past a few flat-footed defenders and then beat Kuemper with a backhand. that he should have stopped. .

Give Colorado credit. They wouldn’t leave, they wouldn’t give up. Trailing by one, the Avalanche tied the game early in the third period on another body rebound. This time it was Nico Sturm who redirected a shot from the point on the net, then chained his rebound and took a shot that seemed to come from the knee of Andrew Cogliano.

This is how he stayed until extra time, even if it was not for lack of opportunities.

Colorado really pushed the pace late in the game, with Vasilevskiy stopping Logan O’Connor on a breakaway in overtime and Artturi Lehkonen and Bowen Byram both firing pucks at the posts.

Eventually, Colorado broke through. And they couldn’t have chosen a greater hero.

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