TAMPA — Jon Cooper was 10 seconds from the first response from Wednesday’s postgame press conference when he stopped, took a long pause and changed course.
He had a speech to make. A bone to pick.
Something to come out of his chest after a hard-fought but eviscerating 3-2 overtime loss that has the two-time champions to their last lives, and hockey fans are skimming the replays.
“You know, I love this league. It’s the biggest league in the world. The people running it are amazing. All about it. It’s like a dream come true for me, especially as a Canadian kid growing up and everything that’s happened,” the Tampa Bay Lightning coach began, holding back the emotion behind his measured tone.
“You know, I’ve been part of heartbreaking losses and defeats to the teams that knocked us out and I’ve been with a group that just fights and fights and fights. And they fought their way to a third Stanley Cup final in a row. And in a time when it’s so tough, and the rules are against you because the league wants parity. And I like that in the league.
“And that’s what makes it more difficult. And look at this team, what they’ve been through and the fights that have gone on, and we’re all in this together. Players, coaches, referees, everyone. But this one is going to sting a lot more than the others, just because it was taking…it was potentially…I don’t know.
Cooper resisted saying what he thought.
” It’s hard for me. It’s going to be hard for me to talk,” he said, raising his hand. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow. You’ll see what I mean when you see the winning goal.
“And my heart breaks for the players. Because we should probably still play. I will be available tomorrow.
Then Cooper got up from his seat and from the podium and walked out of the interview room, leaving his audience curious and confused.
A closer look at Nazem Kadri’s dagger in overtime reveals the Game 4 hero accepted his pass in the middle of the ice at the blue line about four seconds before Nathan MacKinnon – whom he was replacing – returned to the bench. Colorado.
Cooper suggested an illegal line change led to his group losing its first home game since May 6 and falling 3-1 in the Finals – a seemingly insurmountable hole against a team as fast and committed as the Avalanche. .
“I’m not sure what he thinks, why it shouldn’t have counted. I mean, it kind of confuses me,” Kadri said.
“The puck hit the back of the net. End of the story.”
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said he didn’t see any problem with the goal: “I didn’t hear any confusion.
Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde was more explicit.
“They managed to get an interesting change for the winning goal, and that was the difference,” Lalonde said to Dave Randorf on the air. “It’s going to get ugly. We’re probably talking about a 50 foot change. Obviously, Kadri has changed to MacKinnon.
“It’s a very bad look. Unfortunately, we are on the wrong side. »
NHL Hockey Operations released the following statement after the game, blaming the scratches:
Too many men on the ice is a decision that can be made by any of the four on-ice officials.
After the game, Hockey Operations met with the four officials according to their usual protocol. When discussing the game-winning goal, each of the four referees indicated that they hadn’t seen too many men on the ice during play.
This call is not subject to video review by Hockey Ops or on-ice officials.
Mistakes happen in hockey. The teams are doing well.
The Lightning has benefited from bad but undetected line changes in the past. (Just ask Barry Trotz what he thought of the Lightning scores with too many men on the ice in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.)
But that doesn’t mean it won’t cast a shadow over Kadri’s brilliant moment.
Cooper looked like a man who understands his group desperately needed Wednesday’s win to keep their triple bid alive.
The Avalanche controlled the puck throughout overtime and invaded their offense, pushing the Bolts into their own zone before completing the comeback.
“At the same time, when we’re stuck like that, you make yourself vulnerable to something like that. That’s why they changed the overtime rule, changing the ends [to create a long line change] because of this potential look,” conceded Lalonde.
“It stings a bit right now.”
Now Friday threatens to sting even harder.
Fox’s Fast 5
• Tampa is being slaughtered in special teams.
The Avs have six power-play goals, plus one shorthanded in this series. The Lightning have only one goal at 5-4. It’s a six-goal swing, and it’s taking its toll.
“It’s easy to point that out now. They scored several power play goals. We want to keep 5v5 – that’s where we’re best,” Victor Hedman said. “Our power play is struggling, not scoring goals, but I feel we are building momentum.”
• Scary moment for Anthony Cirelli, who flew off the ice in the second period clutching his arm. It looks like his biceps were cut off by Alex Killorn’s skate:
“Listen, [Erik] Cernak left the match. Cirelli left the game and returned. Everyone sacrifices at this time of year,” said Steven Stamkos. “No one outside the dressing room – sometimes you think you know, you don’t. It’s tough for both teams. You’ve got guys playing through a lot at the moment. Guys are just fighting.
• I love this idea.
• Play is stopped when a goalkeeper loses their mask — unless there is an immediate chance for the opponent to score.
That’s why Cirelli’s first rebound goal came up after a shot from Erik Cernak dislodged Darcy Kuemper’s mask.
“Make the save,” former NHL player Mike McKenna tweetedwith a link to this video:
• Mikko Rantanen quietly achieves a hell of a series: eight assists, to lead all the skaters in points.