FOUNDERING AVALANCHE FALLS 5-2 AT TAMPA BAY
LIGHTNING 5, AVALANCHE 2 Tampa Bay extends Avalanche’s losing streak to four games
TAMPA, FLA.» The hole is widening for the Avalanche, which is familiar with December dives, having gone 3-12 in the month a year ago en route to the worst season in club history.
Thursday night at Amalie Arena, captain Gabe Landeskog scored on his first shift in his first game back from serving a fourgame suspension, but Colorado couldn’t keep pace with what is considered the NHL’s best team and fell to 0-4 this month.
Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos had a goal and three points in the Lightning’s 5-2 victory — pinning the Avalanche with its fourth consecutive loss. Stamkos scored on a breakaway just 25 seconds after Landeskog struck 1:21 into the game. Former Avs goalie Peter Budaj got the win for Tampa Bay, which has won three in a row and is the first team to reach 20 victories. Budaj allowed even-strength goals to Landeskog and Erik Johnson but stopped J.T. Compher on two breakaways.
“He made two good saves on two good chances to score,” Compher said. “Obviously, I would have liked to have put them in. They were big parts of the game.”
Johnson’s goal tied it 2-2 late in the first period. The Lightning (20-6-2) received the go-ahead goal from Vladislav Namestnikov at 8:09 of the second period and went ahead 4-2 on Alex Killorn’s power-play goal at 4:57 of the third. Killorn’s one-time blast off Stamkos’ centering feed skimmed off the stick of Johnson and then off the shoulder of goalie Semyon Varlamov. It came during Mikko Rantanen’s holding-the-stick minor beside Tampa Bay’s net — a penalty Rantanen refused to accept because he said he never held Victor Hedman’s stick.
The Lightning, which was 1-of-5 on the power play and 3-for-3 in penalty killing, added a shorthanded empty-net goal at 16:41 of the third period.
“We get our first lead in the first period and they get a breakaway and score right off the bat of that,” said Landeskog, who had three shots in 20:48. “Going into the second period, it’s a 2-2 game and we’re in a good spot. Their timely goals killed our momentum.”
The Avs (12-13-2) were beginning a four-game trip after going 1-4 on their disappointing five-game
homestand. They were outshot 17-7 in the first period Thursday but earned more possession time as the game went on. Tampa Bay finished with a 32-30 advantage in shots.
“They’re going to spend some time in (the offensive zone) because they’re so talented and they work; you have to find a way to minimize their chances,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “Obviously, this is the best team in the league right now. As a young team we have to pay attention to the process and continuing to find things to build on. There were some things in that game that we did that were better than what we did in the last three games at home. So it’s a step forward. Now we’ve got to take another step.”
Lightning goaltender Peter Budaj makes a glove save with the Avalanche’s Alexander Kerfoot nearby during Thursday’s game in Tampa, Fla. Budaj, a former Avs goalie, made 28 saves in the Lightning’s 5-2 win.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Peter Budaj gets “snowed” while making a save on a shot by the Avalanche during the first period of Thursday night’s game.