Discreet in attack, Nathan MacKinnon contributes in many other ways

Everything is running like clockwork for the Avalanche, even with quiet MacKinnon and Nazem Kadri sidelined with a thumb injury.

The Western Champions are a quick group that constantly counterattacks, generating one scoring opportunity after another.

That’s why the Avalanche lead 2-0 against the Lightning. Game 3 is Monday at Tampa Bay.

They are definitely the fastest team we have faced,” said captain Steven Stamkos. We have to find a way to slow them down. You have to send the puck where you can neutralize their speed, without performing turnovers.

Colorado has scored at least seven goals on four occasions since the start of the playoffs, most recently on Saturday in an unequivocal 7-0 win at Denver.

The Avalanche became the first NHL team to score 11 or more goals in the first two games of the Finals since 1996, when they themselves scored the feat.

Head coach Jared Bednar credits much of the offensive fireworks to the respite after the conference final.

The Lightning struggled six games against the New York Rangers, while the Avalanche enjoyed an extended break after sweeping the Edmonton Oilers.

Rest is important, Bednar said. Our team just seems to be really focused on the goal. Guys are hungry for wins.

A different player rises in each game, like Andre Burakovsky scoring in overtime at the curtain lever. Or Valeri Nichushkin and Cale Makar, who scored twice in the second clash.

So they broke through the great wall Andrei Vasilevskiy.

We think that’s the way to beat them,” defenseman Josh Manson said of playing fast. But we can’t think they are shaken. We just have to keep our foot on the accelerator.

Plus, Colorado isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty. Darren Helm leads the playoffs with 84 hits, including 22 in the final. The veteran also registered one but on Saturday, his second of the playoffs.

This guy is a beast, Makar said. He is so motivated.

Darcy Kuemper joined Patrick Roy as Avalanche goaltenders with a shutout in the Stanley Cup Final. Roy in a success in 1996 and two in 2001, during the conquests of Colorado.

MacKinnon has two assists in the series. Even if he doesn’t have the main role, he can have a big impact in a more subdued role: winning face-offs, playing tough, wearing down the opponent and forechecking.

Mikko Rantanen had three assists in Game 2. He’s provided at least two points in his last four games in Denver.

That ties a playoff record for the organization. The brand was established by Peter Stastny with the Quebec Nordiques in 1982, then equaled by MacKinnon in 2020.

While the finals continue in Florida, Colorado is 7-0 on the road since the start of the playoffs.

They’re playing at an elite level right now, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. This is not our case. We have to raise our level of play.

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