The Avalanche stand just one win away from denying the Tampa Bay Lightning their third consecutive championship, and can win the Stanley Cup Final at home as they host Game 5 of the series on Friday night.
FanDuel Sportsbook lists the Avalanche as a -176 favorite to close out the series in Game 5, with the Lightning at +146 to extend the Stanley Cup Final.
Avalanche closing in on first title since 2001
Colorado moved to within a game of winnings its first title since 2001 with an overtime victory in Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Nazem Kadri’s somewhat controversial goal put the Avalanche up 3-1 and on the verge of finally ending the Lightning’s run as champions.
Yet the Avalanche aren’t taking anything for granted. Given the stakes and Tampa Bay’s experience, the Colorado players insist they won’t celebrate before the final whistle blows on a fourth victory.
“We know what’s at stake, but at the same time, what Tampa is going to bring and have to kind of put other emotions to the side and focus on the game at hand,” Colorado forward Darren Helm told reporters. “We’ve got a group that believes, but we also know that Tampa is going to be playing their best game. So we’ve got to put all that outside noise to the side and just focus on what we have to do tomorrow.”
Conn Smythe Trophy favorite Cale Makar echoed those sentiments.
“Our focus is just on next game and regardless of what happens, we’re still going to be a confident group,” Makar told reporters. “Obviously, we have a great opportunity here to clinch something great for the team, 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: Comeback starts with win in Game 5
The Lightning aren’t giving up on winning a title heading into Game 5. Sure, in the history of the NHL, teams down 3-1 in a Stanley Cup Final have only won one series out of 36. For the moment, Tampa Bay is focusing on shorter term goals.
“We have to go win a game,” Lightning forward Pat Maroon told reporters. “Right now our focus is on Game 5, and we have to go win. I mean, there’s nothing really we can do.”
FanDuel lists Tampa Bay as a +900 underdog to win the Stanley Cup Final at this point, a sign of just how big a task this comeback will be.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper says that regardless of the odds, his team remains focused on the task ahead. As he pointed out, Tampa Bay came back from down 3-2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.
“What the hell’s the difference?” Cooper asked reporters on Thursday. “We still have to go on the road and win a hockey game. We were going to have to win a game on the road regardless. We didn’t have home ice. So why not tomorrow?”