NHL Playoffs: Nazem Kadri returns to score in OT, Avs 1 game away from Cup

colorado avalanche
Jun 22, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (91) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game winning goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during overtime in game four of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the return of Nazem Kadri from thumb surgery, the Colorado Avalanche are just one win away from winning their first Stanley Cup in 21 years.

In overtime, Kadria came flying off the bench to deliver the winner that has the Avs up 3-1 in the Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Sitting here right now it’s kind of surreal,” Kadri said via NHL.com. “I just was excited to join the team again and be in the dressing room. This is what has I’ve been working on my whole life pretty much, so it was certainly exciting to get back in the lineup.”

The Avs will look to close this out Friday night at home in front of their fans.

NHL Playoffs: Nazem Kadri returns

Avalanche 3 vs Lightning 2 (OT)

nazem kadri
Jun 22, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (91) scores the game winning goal against Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) during overtime in game four of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When Kadri scored at 12:02 of an extra session dominated by the Colorado Avalanche, it wasn’t without controversy. It appears that he jumped onto the ice several seconds before Nathan MacKinnon stepped off. A too many men on the ice penalty could’ve been called and thus negated the goal.

“You’re going to see what I mean when you see the winning goal,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper lamented afterwards. “My heart breaks for the players because we probably still should be playing.”

The NHL issued a statement clarifying that a too many on the ice penalty is a judgment call that can be made by any of the four on-ice officials. After the game, none of the on-ice officials saw it as a penalty. The league noted that particular type of play is not eligible for video review.

MacKinnon and Andrew Cogliano were the other goal scorers for Colorado with Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar notching an assist each. Goalie Darcy Kuemper had a world-class performance in net stopping 37 of 39 shots. His assist on the OT winner was the first ever by a goalie in the Stanley Cup Final.

On the losing side, Anthony Cirelli and Victor Hedman scored for Tampa. Andrei Vasilevskiy was solid in goal stopping 35 shots.

The odds of the Lightning winning this series are slim. NHL history shows a team that takes a 3-1 series lead in the Final will win 35 out of 36 times. Back in 1942, the Toronto Maple Leafs became the only team to do it by storming back from 3-0 down to beat the Detroit Red Wings.

Tampa’s task becomes even harder as Erik Cernak may have suffered an injury blocking a shot in the second period and could not continue. Brayden Point missed another game and Nikita Kucherov is likely not at 100% after taking a bad spill in Game 3.

“The series wasn’t won tonight,” said Bolts captain Steven Stamkos. “We know what it feels like to be in their shoes and have a chance obviously to win at home. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s a pretty nerve-wracking day.”