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The Avalance Are Stealing the Lightning's Narrative

The Tampa Bay Lightning may be known for their ability to respond to a loss. But the Colorado Avalanche have taken that narrative and run with it, leading them to within one win of the Stanley Cup.

TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Lightning are the ones that come back. Right? 

That's what we've been told all postseason long, after all, with Tampa's remarkable 17-game winning streak on the heels of a playoff loss being arguably the one central narrative trumpeted most to the masses for the entire past two months. 

It's hard to argue against it, either. It's a remarkable feat no matter how you slice it, especially when done in the pressure cooker of the playoff grind, and this team's ability to respond in the face of defeat with such gusto deserves recognition. 

But that streak is over now. Done. The Lightning are 1-2 in response games since it ended, having dug themselves into a 0-2 deficit in each of their past two series, including the one they will resume tonight. Jon Cooper's group has stuck around, of course. Just as they always do. But the main narrative the back-to-back champs have ridden all the way to the Stanley Cup final has now been stolen now by the one team standing between them and a three-peat. 

The Avalanche own that distinction now. Jared Bednar's squad is the only team still yet to lose consecutive playoff games this season, dropping only four in total to craft a run that, regardless of the final result, will go down as one of the most dominant in recent memory. 

This Avs squad has not faced elimination at any point of any series they've participated in, either. Thanks to two sweeps and another two 3-1 series leads, these Avalanche have controlled their destiny practically the entire time, forcing opponents to push them rather than being pushed themselves. 

Few have managed to make them sweat to this point. The one team that did, however, is of particular focus here, with the St. Louis Blues' ability to stave off elimination on the road in Game 5 of round two allowing a familiar form of doubt to creep back into a team that had failed for so many years to get over that hump. 

Of course, the Avalanche eventually did find a way, closing out the Blues in Game 6  on the road, to keep their ascent up hockey's highest mountain alive and put the final nail in the coffin of their inability to deal a finishing blow. 

Their script two rounds later is almost identical. It's like poetry, really. 

Just as they did nearly one month to the day ago, the Avalanche returned home with a 3-1 series lead over their plucky opponent with the chance to finish the job in front of their raucous crowd. And, just as they did a month ago, the Avs dropped a one-goal decision to that opponent despite largely outplaying them, thereby setting the stage for a do-or-die Game 6. 

In years past, the Avalanche would have lost that game. The results prove it. Just one year prior, the Avs blew a 2-0 series lead over the Vegas Golden Knights to ultimately bow out of the second round in six games. That team couldn't get it done, dropping not just two, but four consecutive games to seal their fate and feed the demons that would not go away. 

Toppling St. Louis put that narrative to bed. 

This is a different group with a different mentality. It wasn't Colorado's stars that propelled them over the Blues four weeks ago. It was Darren Helm, Glue Guy Extraordinare™, who slammed the door shut via a buzzer-beating wrister with less than six seconds to go. It was Darcy Kuemper who, after comparatively struggling to that point in the postseason, gave the Avalanche just enough stability to squeak out the win. It was Cale Makar and Devon Toews logging nearly 30 minutes each, all against top competition, to riddle their opponent's path with as many hurdles as possible. 

The Lightning are a better team than those Blues. Their stars shine brighter; their goalie is more daunting; their depth more suffocating. But the Avalanche have written this story before, swapping out one narrative that had held them back for so long with another that pushed them to heights they had yet to reach. 

Now, they're on the verge of doing it all over again. 

Only this time, there's a blueprint to follow. Game 6 will decide if the sequel to that story is a copy of the original. 


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