DENVER — Andre Burakovsky woke up early Wednesday morning. Too early. There were 12 hours before the start of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final and yet there he was, unable to sleep at 6am. The nerves kicked in, even though Burakovsky is one of the few players for the Colorado Avalanche to be here. have been before, who have played in a Stanley Cup final, one of the few to have won a championship.
It didn’t matter.
“I was also a bit nervous, I had some sleeping problems last night,” Burakovsky said. “…I couldn’t wait to play the game.”
The nerves were invisible.
Burakovsky made the most of his 12:34 ice time on Wednesday, playing the part of hero as he scored at 1:23 of overtime to give the Avalanche a 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
His goal came shortly after the Avalanche failed to capitalize on the rest of a power play they had as a result of Pat Maroon shooting the puck over the glass at 6:36 pm of the third period. JT Compher intercepted a pass from Mikhail Sergachevi into the neutral zone and skated in for an attempt at Andrei Vasilevskiy† The shot was blocked by Victor Hedmanbut the rebound bounced to Valeri Nichushkinwho crossed the trench to Burakovsky.
He buried the one-timer and was soon mobbed by his teammates.
“‘Val’ got the puck back and made a great play for me, and it was up to me to shoot it,” Burakovsky said. “Luckily it went in.”
What was he thinking?
“I didn’t think too much,” he said with a chuckle. “It was kind of a crazy feeling.”
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This is not the first time Burakovsky is in this position. The forward won the 2018 Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals, one of only two Avalanche players to have done so, the other being Darren Helm with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008. Helm was also on the losing side of the 2009 Stanley Cup final.
The other two Avalanche players who played in the final lost to the Lightning: Andrew Coglianocurrently injured, with the Dallas Stars in 2020, and Artturi Lehkonen last season with the Montreal Canadiens.
But Burakovsky won. He has seen what it takes.
“I think maybe a little,” he said, when asked if it matters. “I’ve been through it. I kind of know what to expect and the pace and what’s at stake here.”
He knows what it feels like to win. Until Wednesday, however, he didn’t know what it felt like to score in the Stanley Cup Final. He had four assists in five games against the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018.
“I thought he was solid tonight, really solid,” said Colorado coach Jared Bednar. “Handled the puck very well, had no turnovers, checked hard, came out on top of the pucks. He skated well.
“And that’s kind of what ‘Burky’ can do. If you put him in one spot, he can finish it. He’s a streaky goalscorer. If he gets chances, he can put the puck in the net. him tonight, me thought it was really strong.”
It’s something the Avalanche saw in Burakovsky’s practice, that shot he used at the end of Game 1.
“He hides his release really well, and when he lets it go, he really swings it,” Colorado defender Bowen Byram said. “He’s a goalscorer and we’ve seen a lot of that from him over the years. We’re just glad he buried it, and now we’re moving on to Game 2.”