The Colorado Avalanche are one game away from winning the Stanley Cup, but they didn’t get to this spot without some controversy. Nazem Kadri’s overtime winner in Game 4 gave the Avalanche a 3-1 series lead and gave the Tampa Bay Lightning plenty to talk about.
The Avalanche had too many men on the ice, but it didn’t get called and could not be reviewed. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said “we probably still should be playing” after the game. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar admitted he saw 7-on-6 at one point, but said that happens frequently and said he saw it as “nothing.”
Looking past that controversy, Colorado can dethrone the two-time defending champs with one more win. The Avs are in search of a first Stanley Cup since 2001.
What time is Avalanche vs. Lightning Game 5?
8 p.m. ET on Friday
Where to watch and stream Avalanche vs. Lightning?
Channels: ABC, CBC, SN
Streaming: ESPN+, SN Now
Stanley Cup Final schedule
Game 1: Avalanche 4, Lightning 3 – OT
Game 2: Avalanche 7, Lightning 0
Game 3: Lightning 6, Avalanche 2
Game 4: Avalanche 3, Lightning 2 – OT | Avalanche lead 3-1
Game 5: Lightning at Avalanche | Friday, June 24 | 8 p.m. ET
Game 6*: Avalanche at Lightning | Sunday, June 26 | 8 p.m. ET
Game 7*: Lightning at Avalanche | Tuesday, June 28 | 8 p.m. ET
Every day during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, The Athletic’s writers will make their picks, straight up. We put our picks, the TV schedule and all series coverage, plus the latest odds, all in one place for fans to easily digest and follow. Our in-depth NHL coverage is linked below the picks. For live NHL odds from BetMGM, click here.
What are the odds for Avalanche at Lightning Game 5?
O 6 (+100)
U 6 (-120)
Series odds: Avalanche -1400, Lightning +800
Lightning vs. Avalanche Game 5 preview
Throughout his decade on the bench in Tampa Bay, Jon Cooper, now the longest tenured coach in the NHL, was a steady mast helping propel the Lightning in the right direction. Since he took over in 2012, the Bolts have been among the been among the best teams in the league year after year. Cooper is a scholarly, calm presence in a league that leans into churn and change.
But he made a mistake on Wednesday. Cooper let a loss get to him and, worse still, he let the idea of fallibility creep into the room. It’s not important anymore whether Cooper was right or wrong about a too many men on the ice penalty that wasn’t called in Game 4. Fact is, Game 5 is scheduled for Friday and the Avalanche hold a 3-1 series lead. It wasn’t a penalty because it wasn’t a penalty. Whether it should have been is immaterial.
Now the Lightning have an air of grievance. And aggrieved teams don’t win. Teams that are impervious to the whims of fate, those are the teams that win. The Avs lost Nazem Kadri to a broken hand. Then they lost Andre Burakovsky to a hand injury. Instead of crying woe, they bided their time. And Kadri returned at the perfect spot, just in time to score the game-winner in overtime Wednesday. An incredible story.
After the Lightning lost Game 2 in a 7-0 blowout, Cooper talked about letting it go, about rising above and playing through. He spoke confidently about his team and their ability to erase the losses and move on. And they did. The Bolts rebounded in Game 3 to win in a blowout of their own.
But on Wednesday, Cooper tossed a hand grenade and walked out without explanation. He had the entire league talking about a phantom call that he didn’t even acknowledge in the moment. “My heart breaks for the players,” he said. It all underlined how thoroughly the Avs dominated that overtime period. The Lightning did not lose Game 4 because of one call.
On Thursday, Cooper tried to move on. “What’s great about today is that it is not yesterday,” Cooper said. “And now I’ve got some excitement for Game 5.”
The Avs are rolling again, with a confidence boosted by Kadri’s return and a gutsy OT victory on slushy ice in Florida. Now they return to Colorado and a loud crowd ready to anoint them champions. They have all of the momentum. Teams that hold a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup finals are 33-1 all-time. No team has rallied from 3-1 down since the Maple Leafs came back on the Red Wings in 1942. Yeah, 80 years ago.
A coach sets the tone, inside the room and out. The hockey world should have been talking about how the Lightning have it in them to rally from 3-1 down because they are a veteran, accomplished team with enough experience to avoid getting rattled. Instead, we argued whether the Bolts were wronged, re-litigating their loss over and over. They lost the game, then they lost the argument.
“I’ve moved on,” Cooper said Thursday. “I’d be really happy to talk about tomorrow night’s game if anybody wants to talk about that.”
Meanwhile, the Avs made themselves ready for Game 5 before they got on the bus.
“We have a great opportunity here to clinch something great,” Colorado’s Cale Makar said Thursday. “But at the end of the day we just have to focus on ourselves and play our game and then wherever that takes us, it takes us.”
Lightning vs. Avalanche expert picks and predictions for Game 5
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(Photo of Cale Makar and Brandon Hagel: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)