DENVER — Colorado coach Jared Bednar wasn’t happy about a controversial penalty kick in Game 5 of Friday’s Stanley Cup Finals that helped determine the Avalanche’s fate in a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
Bednar’s side led the series 3-1 and went into Game 5 with a chance to lift the trophy on home ice. The Lightning won partially on a second-half trip offense against Cale Makar, resulting in a 4-on-3 power play goal from Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov.
That was ultimately the difference in Friday’s result, which Bednar didn’t sit well with.
“I didn’t love that call just because I don’t think there was any intent,” Bednar said. “I don’t even think he checked this guy out [Ondrej Palat]. To me it looked like he tripped over his cane. It’s a difficult question. They scored their only power play goal. That hurt, stung a little. But it is what it is. You have to roll with the punches.”
Makar attempted to dodge questions about the penalty afterward, claiming he hadn’t seen a replay, and remained focused on Colorado’s continued goal of ending the series.
“I’m not here to talk about the referees,” Makar said. “We have to fight our way through that. It’s playoffs, there will be discrepancies from game to game with different people. It is what it is. You can’t put your emotions into it. For me that [tripping penalty] It doesn’t happen very often, but at the end of the day you have to refocus.”
When it happened, the sides were already 4v4 over small penalties against Alex Killorn (holding) and a late equalizing call against JT Compher (stick holding). Colorado’s penalty was already 2-for-2 that night but couldn’t stop Kucherov when he fired a shot at Darcy Kuemper.
The Avalanche had already overcome a 1-0 deficit to level the game when Kucherov made it to 2-1 Lightning. Colorado tried to keep tabs on the shift in momentum, though the Tampa Bay man’s advantage materialized.
“That’s unfortunate,” Devon Toews said of the call. “I don’t know if you can say it’s unfair or not. We didn’t get the kill. Then we just didn’t make enough or get enough pucks through their keeper. So, it’s a crucial point.” the game, but I don’t know if that’s the reason [we lost].”
Friday was the second consecutive cup final where officials took the spotlight. Lightning coach Jon Cooper walked out of his press conference after Tampa Bay’s 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4 after saying he didn’t think Nazem Kadri’s winning goal should have counted. It was later revealed that this was due to a supposed missed call from too many men on the ice against the avalanche.
Colorado was penalized late in the third period of Game 5 for too many men while trailing 3-2, preventing them from drawing Kuemper until less than a minute remained. Bednar rated Kuemper’s overall performance as ‘okay’ in 26 saves, and the 4-on-3 mark continued to be great for the keeper.
“You know, I liked our game,” said Kuemper. “They got the 4-on-3 call there and scored a goal. That was the difference in the end.”
Tampa Bay proved it can turn the tide quickly after an emotional loss in Game 4. Now Colorado must do the same and put any lingering frustration over Friday’s finish behind as the series returns to Tampa for Game 6 on Sunday.
“I’m not getting in [the officiating],” said Captain Gabriel Landeskog. “It’s something her [the Lightning] can continue to do; we do not do that. We focus on our game. We’ll watch a video tomorrow and make sure we refine some things here that will go into the next game.”