DENVER — So, this is what it feels like.
The helplessness, the hopelessness, the utter embarrassment of showing up for a hockey game and realizing the team on the other bench is playing at a level you cannot comprehend.
Sheesh, kind of makes you feel sorry for Florida.
And Boston. And Carolina, and every other team the Lightning has skated past in recent postseasons.
Because what Colorado did to Tampa Bay in a 7-0 victory in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final on Saturday night was every bit as soul crushing as anything the Lightning have done to an opponent in recent seasons. Maybe even worse.
The good news is the Lightning will be leaving the thin air of the Rocky Mountains on Sunday morning. The bad news is they will be on thin ice by the time they get back home to Tampa Bay.
The Lightning trail the Avalanche 2-0 after two games, which is the same hole they had to dig out of in the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers. The difference is the Rangers did not look as dominating or determined as Colorado.
The Avalanche were superior in virtually every phase of the game. Their power play scored. Their penalty kill scored a shorthanded goal. They thoroughly beat the Lightning in 5-on-5 situations.
If there was any consolation for the Lightning, it was the hope that most of the national television audience switched the channel before things got really ugly in the third period.
Two hours before the game, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he did not expect the first period to be as lopsided as Game 1.
Then his team went out and somehow looked even more inept.
Colorado completely controlled the action from the opening puck drop, in almost embarrassing fashion. Less than 11 minutes into the game, the Avalanche had 15 shot attempts compared to 1 for Tampa Bay.
By the 14-minute mark, Colorado was leading 3-0.
It was as if a bunch of kids got together for a neighborhood game and one team got to pick the best 10 players. Colorado was quicker, more aggressive and smarter. Or maybe Tampa Bay was slower, more tentative and dumber. Either way, the result was the same.
For posterity’s sake, here are the macabre details:
Barely a minute into the game, Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh inexplicably went into goon mode on J.T. Compher and got called for roughing.
The result? With seven seconds remaining on the power play, Andre Burakovsky threaded a gorgeous pass to Valeri Nichushkin, who was gliding toward the net and deflected it past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Five minutes later, the Lightning lost possession deep in the Colorado zone and McDonagh was caught flatfooted beyond mid-ice.
The result? The Avalanche had a 3-on-1 in the blink of an eye, and Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak hopelessly tried to lay out on the ice as Josh Manson fired a shot into the corner of the net.
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A rebound in front of the net led to the third goal, and a turnover by Ondrej Palat behind the net led to a 4-0 lead in the second period.
This story will be updated.
John Romano can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @romano_tbtimes.
After dropping the opening game of the Stanley Cup final, the Tampa Bay Lightning hope to tie the series against the Colorado Avalanche at one game apiece with a win tonight in Denver.
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