DENVER — Colorado coach Jared Bednar wasn’t happy about a controversial penalty call in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Friday that helped determine the Avalanche’s fate in a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
Bednar’s team led the series 3-1 entering Game 5 with a chance to hoist the Cup on home ice. The Lightning earned a victory in part because of a tripping infraction levied against Cale Makar in the second period, leading to a 4-on-3 power-play goal from Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov.
That wound up being the difference in Friday’s outcome, which didn’t sit well with Bednar.
“I didn’t love that call, just because I don’t think there was any intent there,” Bednar said. “I don’t even think he was checking that guy [Ondrej Palat]. Looked to me like he kind of tripped over his stick. It’s a tough one. They got their only power play goal on that one. So that hurt, stung a little bit. But it is what it is. You gotta roll with the punches.”
Makar tried sidestepping questions about the penalty afterwards by claiming he hadn’t seen a replay yet and keeping focus on Colorado’s continued goal of closing out the series.
“I’m not here to talk about the refs,” Makar said. “We have to battle through that. It’s playoffs, there’s going to be discrepancies game to game with different people. It is what it is. You can’t get your emotions taken into that. For me, that [tripping penalty] doesn’t happen very often but at the end of the day you have to refocus.”
When it happened, the sides were already playing 4-on-4 because of minor penalties to Alex Killorn (holding) and a late offsetting call against JT Compher (holding the stick). Colorado’s penalty kill was 2-for-2 on the night already but couldn’t hold off Kucherov when he unloaded a shot on Darcy Kuemper.
The Avalanche had already overcome a 1-0 deficit to tie the game when Kucherov made it to 2-1 Lightning. Colorado tried to keep the momentum shift in perspective despite how the Tampa Bay man advantage came about.
“That’s unfortunate,” Devon Toews said of the call. “I don’t know if you can say it’s unwarranted or not. We didn’t get the kill on that one. Then we just didn’t generate enough or get enough pucks through on their goalie. So, it’s a key point in the game, but I don’t know if that’s the reason why [we lost].”
Friday was the second straight Cup Final game that put a spotlight on officiating. Lightning coach Jon Cooper walked out of his news conference following Tampa Bay’s 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4 after saying he didn’t believe Nazem Kadri’s game-winning goal should have counted. That was later revealed to be because of a perceived missed call of too many men on the ice against the Avalanche.
Colorado was penalized for too many men late in the third period of Game 5 while trailing 3-2, preventing them from pulling Kuemper until less than a minute remained. Bednar assessed Kuemper’s overall play in a 26-save performance as “okay,” and the 4-on-3 marker continued to loom large for the netminder.
“You know, I liked our game,” Kuemper said. “They got the 4-on-3 call there and they scored on it. That ended up being the difference.”
Tampa Bay proved after an emotional loss in Game 4 it could turn the page quickly. Now Colorado has to do the same and leave any lingering frustration over Friday’s finish behind as the series shifts back to Tampa for Game 6 on Sunday.
“I’m not getting into [the officiating],” Captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “It’s something they [the Lightning] can continue to do; we’re not doing that. We’re focusing on our game. We’ll watch some video tomorrow, make sure we’re fine-tuning some things going into the next game here.”