Nazem Kadri thought his season was over two weeks ago. But an indescribable urge to put a final stamp on a memorable playoff run drove him back into the lineup.
“Sitting here right now, it’s kind of surreal,” he said.
Kadri made his Stanley Cup Finals debut in Game 4 with little to no puck-shooting ability and scored the game-winning goal to pull the Avalanche into a win-all game, giving them a 3-0 lead. 1 in the series.
His second shot ended a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday. Kadri’s resilience was poetic in many ways. But it was also his ability to make a difference that turned heads among his teammates.
“You know he wasn’t going to go down easily,” said captain Gabriel Landeskog, who played on a line with Kadri and Artturi Lehkonen. “It’s inspiring for everyone to see a teammate like him trying to come back and fighting every day to try and improve and finally he’s back in the lineup tonight. You don’t can’t make this stuff up. Lots of overtime and it’s great to see.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper started the game by shoveling the puck to Lehkonen. He made the pass to Kadri who burst in and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy high blocker.
The goaltender was in the midst of his best performance of the series – stopping the Avs multiple times in overtime. His biggest save came on a breakaway from Logan O’Connor.
Tampa had a 17-4 advantage on shots in 20 minutes, but were outplayed the rest of the way.
“Yes, they came out fast and they came out flying,” Landeskog said. “We tried to weather the storm a bit.”
Perhaps the most intriguing part of winning the game was what happened next. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper walked out of his press conference after hinting that something was wrong with the deciding count.
“You’ll see what I mean when you see the winning goal,” he said. “My heart breaks for the players because we should probably still be playing.”
WATCH: Jon Cooper just walked out of his press conference just before he finished his thought. pic.twitter.com/uk5jkSZdNO
— Aarif Deen (@runwriteAarif) June 23, 2022
Cooper was referring to what appeared to be too many men on the ice penalty on the Avalanche just before the goal. Kadri jumped on the ice for Nathan MacKinnon, who appeared to be a considerable distance off the bench as the sixth man when Kadri first touched the puck.
“Too many men on the ice penalty is a judgment that can be made by any of the four on-ice officials,” the NHL said in a postgame statement. “After the game, hockey operations met with the four officials, as per their usual protocol. When discussing the game-winning goal, each of the four referees indicated that they hadn’t seen too many men on the ice during play.
“This call is not subject to video review by either hockey operations or on-ice officials.”
The Lightning led 1-0 in their dominating performance in the first period. The Avs once again used their strong power play to tie the game at 1-1 in the second period on a MacKinnon count.
His first of the series was the sixth of 13 power-play opportunities Colorado had in the series.
“It’s obviously nice to score,” he said. “It’s not about who, as long as our team scores. It was a big goal at the time and it felt good to have one.
The Avs trailed 2-1 after the second period, but came out strong once again in the third and were rewarded with a fortuitous rebound from Andrew Cogliano to tie the game and force overtime.
Cogliano’s tally was helped by fellow fourth-row players Nico Sturm and Darren Helm.
The Avs’ ability to bounce back from a tough Game 3 and a rough start to Wednesday’s game was the exact type of resilience they’ve shown all year.
And now they have a chance to win it all at home on Friday night.
“It’s not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination,” Landeskog said. “They are going to do their best and we are going to do the same.”
Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availability and other Avs-related events on a daily basis. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports after earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism and her master’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Prior to Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as an assistant director of sports information.