By MARK DIDTLER, Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Colorado not only failed to take control of the Stanley Cup Finals after a 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 3 on Monday night, but also found itself with questions on goalkeepers.
Darcy Kuemper, after rarely being tested in a 7-0 Game 2 win on Saturday night that put the Avalanche up 2-0 in the series, was taken off midway through the second after giving up five goals on 22 shots
“I don’t think he had a good night… neither did our team,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.
Kuemper left Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against Edmonton with an upper-body injury and was replaced by Pavel Francouz, who was in goal for a four-game sweep against the Oilers .
There were talks about who would start the Tampa Bay series, but a now healthy Kuemper got the call and things were going well for Colorado until the Lightning returned home for Game 3 and turns the tables on the Avalanche. After being the team that struggled to pressure the Lightning to make mistakes and hold it to 16 shots in Game 2 on Monday night, the Avalanche have been hot on their heels with some number of poor defensive turnovers that saw Kuemper unable to make the big save on Tampa Bay’s ensuing shots. .
“I think it was on us, of course,” Colorado right-winger Mikko Rantanen said of the skaters in front of Kuemper. “Grade-A (scoring chances) in the slot. We know Darcy is a great goaltender and will bounce back.
The end for Kuemper came when Tampa Bay tough Pat Maroon scored 5-2 with a close backhand at 11:15 of the second. The goal came after Colorado defender Josh Manson made an errant pass behind the net.
Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon replied “just shake it” when asked what his message to Kuemper would be.
“He’s been great all year,” added MacKinnon. “Every mistake we made, they took advantage of.”
Francouz, 6-0 this playoffs, allowed one goal on 10 rake shots.
Although Kuemper went 8-3 in the playoffs this year, there was immediate speculation about the goaltender starting Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Almost forgotten is the fact that Colorado leads the series 2-1.
“It’s fun, it’s awesome,” MacKinnon said. “Good or bad, we’re not going to trade places with anyone in the world.”
NOTES: MacKinnon did not score in the series. He had six shots on goal and 13 total shot attempts on Monday, … The Avalanche ended up beating Tampa Bay 39-32. They also blocked 27 shots and missed the net on 13 others.
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