8:55 p.m. ET
We have a Goal of the Final — and maybe Goal of the Season — candidate from Anthony Cirelli, who just lit this place up with an unbelievable power-play goal at 13:03. He got around the Avalanche defensemen, skated it in on goalie Darcy Kuemper, and somehow slide it through his pads. It was his first goal in 14 games.
The Lightning had looked pretty bad on the power play before that goal. We are tied 1-1 with just over five minutes left in what has been an entertaining first period.
The Lightning went back on the power play at 10:54 when Alex Newhook was whistled for holding the stick. It gave the Lightning a big power play shortly after Gabriel Landeskog put Colorado up 1-0 with a power-play goal.
8:45 p.m. ET
The Avalanche have scored, and this time it counts. Gabriel Landeskog scored on the power play at 8:19 of the first period.
Note to the Lightning: Stay out of the penalty box.
The Lightning actually got the game’s first power play at 5:50 of the first period when forward J.T. Compher went off for interference, but it was wiped out when Lightning forward Ondrej Palat took a high-sticking penalty on Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson with 41 seconds left on the power play, eventually giving the Avalanche a 1:19 power play.
We’ve heard “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones for the first time tonight. I wonder if those guys ever realized that song would become one of the greatest sports anthems of all time. Probably not. That was followed up here by an organ rendition of “Tequila” by the Champs. It was a quick one, though, giving me no time to get up and do my Pee-Wee Herman dance.
NHL.com blogger Nicholas Paul is all over the place in the early going. He’s been one of the unsung heroes for the Lightning in this run, just ask fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He scored twice in Game 7 of the first round and has been a gritty presence this whole series.
8:33 p.m. ET
The Lightning have gotten the first big break of the game. It appeared the Avalanche took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Valery Nichushkin exactly five minutes in, but after the Lightning challenged, the play was ruled offside, the puck barely coming out of the zone before Bowen Byram put it back it in.
It helped breathe some life back into this place after it appeared the Avalanche scored. The Lightning came out strong and put pressure on Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemperbut he has been up to the test, stopping a pretty good attempt from Ross Colton early in the first.
The Lightning brought out some royalty in the pregame, with Dave Andreychuk, captain of their 2004 Cup winning team, making an appearance on the ice.
Those paddle things the Lightning handed out are loud. The sound reminds me of the thunder stinks the California Angels or Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, whatever they are called, use to hand out.
8:15 p.m. ET
After an emotional pregame show that featured an inspirational video starring wrestler Titus O’Neil, “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC blaring in Amalie Arena, and a stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the Lightning’s own Sonya Bryson-Kirksey, we are ready to go here.
The Lightning, already down 2-0, will try to get back into the series without forward Brayden Pointwho played in Games 1 and 2, but missed the 10 previous games and is out tonight.
The Avalanche will be without forward Andre Burakovsky for this one, and forward Nazem Kadri remains out.
Missing Burakovsky is a big blow for the Avalanche; he had three points (two goals, one assist) through the first two games, including the OT goal in Game 1.
One interesting note from the goalie situation is the fact that Andrei Vasilevskiy did not take part in the Lightning’s full team morning skate today. There is still plenty of debate among the media and fans as to whether he should have been pulled after two periods in Game 2. Trailing 5-0, it was clear the Lightning were not going to win Game 2, and it could have gotten him some rest. Maybe he got that rest this morning. Clearly for the Lightning to have any chance, he needs to be better than he was in Games 1 and 2.
The Lightning also need to make life much tougher for Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper, who has barely been tested in the first two games.
I think we all expect the Lightning to come out firing tonight, but let’s not forget, after losing Games 1 and 2 to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, they trailed 2-0 in the second period before finally waking up.
I’m not sure they can afford to fall behind to the Avalanche, who are two wins away from winning the Cup for the first time since 2001.
7:40 p.m. ET
The teams are on the ice for warmups, and Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri are not out there for the Avalanche, a good indication they won’t play tonight.
Lightning forward Brayden Point, deemed a game-time decision by coach Jon Cooper, is also missing from warmups. Riley Nash is dressed, so don’t expect to see Point either.
For all you Broadway fans, the Lightning are dipping into musical “Cats” to get the crowd pumped up. They showed a video of the past two Cup runs set to “Memories.” As long as it’s not from the movie with James Corden, I’m OK with that decision.
This is the first time I have been here for a game — other than the 2018 NHL All-Star Game — so I need to get used to the loud thunder sound effect they play every so often. It’s scared the hell out of me the first two times, but I’ll be ready going forward.
A big thumbs up to the Amalie Arena concession stands. As part of the media meal, we got a voucher for certain food stands. I ended up getting a bucket of chicken marsala. Pretty, pretty good.
7:20 p.m. ET
We are about 45 minutes from puck drop, and though the Lightning are down 2-0, you can bet this crowd will be loud. In fact, every fan has been given some sort of plastic noisemaker. They look like the game we used to play as kids with the rubber ball and the wooden paddle — see the scene in “Blazing Saddles.”
I would assume the Lightning fans are “preparing” for the game at local watering holes because there are not that many people here right now, but judging by the amount of people on the streets in Tampa a few hours before the game, it will be packed.
When we go to games, we like to be on the lookout for random hockey jerseys, and a few minutes ago we spotted a guy in a Billy Smith Islanders jersey. Pretty impressive.
Warmups are a few minutes away so we should get an indication of who is in and who is not shortly.
6:45 p.m. ET
Stanley Cup fever is alive and well here in Tampa, with “Go Bolts” banners all over the city, from businesses to high schools to hotels. Still, there is a sense of uneasiness with the Lightning not only down 2-0 but coming off a 7-0 loss in Game 2.
Speaking of fever, it’s rather hot here on the Gulf Coast. And unlike Denver, it’s not a dry heat. It’s about 90 degrees and humid, perfect hockey weather. Ha.
If you Lightning fans are looking for a few good omens: There was some thunder and lightning in the Tampa area today, though I’m told that’s pretty much every afternoon around here. But here’s a bigger one: As we were leaving the media hotel, “Back to Life,” by Soul II Soul. Hmm.
Back to the hockey, the biggest thing to look for pregame is the status of Lightning forward Brayden Point. He played in Games 1 and 2 of the Final after missing 10 games because of an injury sustained in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he was not on the ice this morning and is a game-time decision , according to coach Jon Cooper.
For the Avalanche, coach Jared Bednar says Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri are day to day. Neither forward was on the ice Monday morning, and Burakovsky was actually traveling from Denver to Tampa today.
Warmups will start in about 45 minutes, so we may get a better idea of where things stand with all three players.