Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Burakovsky tilted the ice enough for the Avalanche to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

DENVER — André Burakovsky couldn't sleep the night before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. 

This isn't the first rodeo for the Colorado Avalanche winger. In fact, he's the only player on the roster to have played in a Stanley Cup Final, winning it all with the Washington Capitals in 2018. But a restless night of sleep led to an early morning wakeup, with Burakovsky eager to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

And his teammates were eager to chirp him. 

"I had a little trouble sleeping last night," Burakovsky said following the Avs' 4-3 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night at Ball Arena. "I woke up at 6 in the morning and couldn't wait for the game."

The response from captain Gabriel Landeskog: "Just wait until you have kids. You’ll be up at 6 every day."

The reason Burakovsky couldn't sleep was because of that experience. The 27-year-old Austrian-born Swedish import wanted the energy and the emotion that came with playing in the Stanley Cup Final again, and more than that, he wanted to win. 

"I feel like I've been there and know the situation and know what is at stake," he said.

Burakovsky played the hero role in the first game when he scored the overtime winner just 1:23 into the bonus frame. It was almost unfortunate that the game had to end that soon considering the action we saw between the two hockey heavyweights, but if anyone was going to end it, Burakovsky was a good bet to do it. 

When Burakovsky was on the ice, mostly with linemates J.T. Compher and Mikko Rantanen, he was tilting it. Colorado led Tampa Bay 20-7 in shot attempts with Burakovsky on the ice and 76 percent of the expected goal share at 5-on-5.

Maybe he's the Bolt killer because there is a history here. The last time he faced the Lightning in the postseason, he scored twice to help send the Caps to the Cup Final.

So yeah, you could say he knows what's at stake. 

"You put him in a spot and he can finish," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "He's a streaky scorer, and when he gets opportunities he can put the puck in the net. All-around game for him tonight. I thought it was really strong." 

Burakovsky wasn't as streaky during the regular season, scoring a career-high 22 goals this season and tallying a career-high 61 points. But he's been held to only two goals in the postseason. 

However, that doesn't mean he hasn't contributed in other ways. The overall game he displayed Wednesday night is what the Avs have seen from him throughout the playoffs. 

"I thought he was solid. Really solid tonight," Bednar said. "Managed the puck really well. Didn't have any turnovers. Checked hard. Was getting above pucks. Skating well. That's what Burky can do." 

Colorado went up 3-1 in the first period before Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachyov scored in the second to tie the game. For a minute, it looked as though the defending champs twice over were exerting their will and skill to overtake the home team. 

Much has been made of how these two teams have taken two completely paths to the Cup Final. The Lightning are attempting to become the first team since the 1980s to win three straight Stanley Cup championships. The New York Islanders won four straight from 1980 to 1983 but no team has won more than two since then and it's become especially difficult in the salary cap era. 

The Avalanche, meanwhile, are attempting to rewrite the narrative that the team built to win championships cannot actually win them. This is the first time Colorado has gone past the second round since 2002. The Avs' best player, Cale Makar, was only three years old back then. 

For a brief moment, it looked as though the Avs would have to deal with another night of questions along the lines of that same narrative.

When Nikita Kucherov sets up Palat the way he did, going around Devon Toews to find Palat for the backdoor tap-in, it can be a little deflating. 

But Colorado wasn't deterred. The Avalanche controlled play through most of the third period. Brayden Point got a stick to the mouth in the third period, forcing the officials to issue a high-sticking penalty to Logan O'Connor. 

The Avs killed it off without allowing a single scoring chance. 

Then came overtime and Burakovsky's one-timer. 

"I just saw Compher get the puck through the neutral zone and win battles," he said. "Obviously Val got the puck back in and made a great play to me and it was up to me to shoot it."

The winger is set to be a free agent this summer and if he keeps playing like this he'll be in line for an even bigger payday. But that's a story for another day. 

Playoff experience shone through in Game 1 and Burakovsky continued his winning ways against Tampa Bay. But now it's on to Game 2 on Saturday.

"Whenever you have guys who have been there and done that, it helps for sure," defenceman Bowen Byram said. "But everyone has got a game of experience now." 

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This article is about:
NHL Colorado Avalanche Tampa Bay Lightning NHL André Burakovsky J.T. Compher Nikita Kucherov Ondrej Palat Jared Bednar Jon Cooper
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